Making your own jam is delicious and rewarding. It is easy and done in NO TIME and is a treat worth making each summer. Fresh cherries are the perfect fruit that are probably sitting in your fridge already. Cherry Jam will make people swoon on any baked breads or cookies. It also makes a great gift!
When I see Bing cherries on sale, I ALWAYS buy them. I love cherries. I can make my way through a bag of cherries in no time. Gently bite, detect pit with teeth, work pit outside of teeth, spit pit out, enjoy delicious cherry flesh. Repeat.
Picking cherries from cherry trees isn't offered in the Midwest but we do love heading out each summer and fall to hand select our strawberries, raspberries and apples. There's something special about being apart of the process from picking it to tasting it and then preparing it for something we serve to our family and friends. I appreciate all the hands that help pick and ship all the kinds of cherry varieties to us here each season.
HOW TO MAKE CHERRY JAM
Pit the cherries and chop them.
Add pitted cherries, sugar and lemon juice to a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the jam sticks to the back of a spoon.
Pour into mason jars, leaving 1/2 inch free at the top. Seal the filled jars tightly and let cool completely in the refrigerator. Good for 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator, or in the freezer for 6 months.
Fresh cherries are ideal for this recipe. But if you live in the Midwest like I do, they have a short season. Frozen cherries can be used in this recipe and it'll still work great.
A good way to tell if the jam is ready is to dunk a spoon in the mixture and hold it over the pan. If there is a slow drip off the back side of the spoon, the consistency is perfect and it's ready to pull off the heat.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAM AND JELLY
Texture is the short answer. Processing time for jelly is a little longer because the fruit is broken down in the cooking process and turns into fruit juice whereas jam is more chunky because its made up of fruit pulp or crushed fruit. Both are good, just depends on your preference!
WHY IS PECTIN NOT USED IN THIS RECIPE
Pectin is a naturally made fiber that helps to thicken the jam, giving it a quicker cooking time. The beauty of this jam is that you cook it slow and let the natural pectin in the cherries do the job. Your grandmother's version did not use pectin and hers was delish!
WHAT FRUITS ARE GOOD FOR MAKING JAM
You can make jam with other high pectin, soft fruits. Strawberries are also excellent whereas peaches and plums are hard and low in acid so aren’t ideal.
TYPES OF CHERRIES TO USE
The United States has two main types of cherries - sweet cherries and sour cherries. Sweet cherries are great in pie and jam because they are naturally sweet. If you accidentally use a sour or tart cherry, though, you'll be surprised by the end result because they are less sweet.
You'll usually find a tart cherry, like Montmorency and Morello, canned or prepared in a dried form with a slightly coated outside for salads and breads. Sweet cherries, like Bing, Rainier, Tulare and Lambert are excellent options for eating fresh or making jam or desserts with.
HOW MANY CHERRIES ARE NEEDED TO MAKE JAM
A pound of cherries will make a good sized container of jam for you. If you have 3 pounds of fruit, pit them and chop them down and you should have about 4 cups ready to prepare.
WAYS TO ENJOY CHERRY JAM
Enjoy with cream cheese on crackers.
Use it as a glaze on pork or chicken.
Top your favorite cheesecake recipe with it.
Use it in place of syrup to top your pancakes or waffles.
It is a perfect gift for co-workers, neighbors, teachers and friends!
Add it to a bowl of oatmeal for a punch of sweetness!
Add a dollop to your favorite plain greek yogurt.
Replace cherries with Cherry Jam on Pan-Fried Brie.
Use some on top of your Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies.
Stir it into vanilla icing to spruce up your cake topping.
Add it to your favorite toast, muffin or croissant.
Make a smoothie and mix some in!
Spoon it over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
HOW TO PIT CHERRIES
Do you have a cherry pitter? If you are regularly making jam or pitting cherries for cooking or baking, you might want to grab this handy tool. But if that's not the case, there are a couple of great tools probably already in your kitchen that you could use to do the job. One is just a regular paring knife. Since we are chopping these cherries anyway, they don't have to be pretty. Another pretty cool way to pit your fruit is to take a chopstick and push it through the middle of a single piece until the round stone is removed. I've even seen people use a bent paper clip.
STERILIZING YOUR JARS
For the purpose of having a delicious jam without spreading germs that could make you sick, prepare your glass jars in advance so they are hot, sterilized and ready to store your jam.
First, wash your jars in a hot soapy water or in boiling water. Then place them in the oven at a low temperature to let the excess water dry off. Then place them in the oven at a low 250 degrees for about 10-15 min to make sure they are completely dry. You can let them stay there in the oven until you are ready to fill them up!
HOW TO STORE JAM
When sealed in an airtight container, it will stay fresh for 3 to 4 weeks. To extend the shelf life, freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight when you are ready for that next tantalizing bite.