When my sister invited me to pick cherries at her place, I had to convince myself that I wanted them. Cherry jam became the reason to pick, because it lasts beyond the season, and several of us love toast with jam. With no family tradition of jam making and nothing in my 1993 Better Homes cookbook, I turned to the internet. Internet friend Stephany and David Lebovitz became my points of reference on…
How to Make Cherry Jam.
First you want to wear dark clothes, as in black, even if you wear an apron. You may also want dark kitchen towels. Start with a large cooking spoon, clean jars with seals and lids, two lemons, a zester and reamer, white sugar, cherries, almond extract, a small pot for cooking, and a large pot for the jars and lids.
2. Clean and pit them while wearing your dark clothes. Endure bad cherry-related jokes from the seven year old. You can use a knife or a cherry pitter. Some stones will have “dirt” on them. Not the dark color you get from air exposure, but dirt. The dirt is probably frass. Throw those cherries away. Chop the cherries that you saved. We used a food processor.
3. Dump pitted cherries in a pot.
5. Measure the contents of the pot. Put it back in the pot.
6. Add [0.75 x (lemons and cherries measurement)] sugar to the pot. Example: for four cups of cherry mush, add 3 cups of sugar [(0.75 x 4 cups) = 3 cups]. Stir. Put a white plate in the freezer. Cook cherry mush over high heat.
7. Look for foam. Stephany says this is the natural pectin. I liken this part to candy-making. The bubbles will not subside when you stir. They are smaller and paler in color than the bubbles in the next stage. Keep cooking.
8. Watch for the foam to subside to big, non-foamy bubbles. Stephany likens this stage to syrup. The jam should coat a spoon, but not in a watery way. My grandmother’s 1953 Better Home cookbook mentions a test of a spoon coated with two drops, but I didn’t see that happen and everyone who has tried our jam likes it. (Maybe we like undercooked jam?)
9. Remove pot from heat. Spoon a little bit of jam on the plate. Freeze for a few minutes. Give a nudge test — (See Lebovitz’s awesome photo in the above link.) if the jam wrinkles, it is done. If not, cook a couple more minutes. Test again until it is ready. (FYI, I licked the plate when I was done.)
11. Get a jar and lid from the pot of warm water. Wipe them dry. Ladle jam into jar. Clean the jar if needed. Put the seal in place. Screw on the lid. Cool on the counter. Enjoy “summer in a jar.” Appreciate the high price of gourmet jams.