Is there anything better than the fresh taste of fruits and vegetables in season? It’s truly a pleasure in life to stop at the farmer’s market or roadside stand when there’s a rainbow of produce to choose from. Right now it’s cherry season here in Spain. You can find many varieties including Rainier and Bing which people in the US are familiar with. We ended up purchasing almost 5 pounds and carried them home in a paper sack, eating them out of hand as we walked along. You’ll only need a couple pounds of fruit to make about a quart of cherry jam that will be enjoyed long after the cherries are gone.
Cherries can be daunting to deal with. Pitting them can be a messy hassle, but it’s easier with the right tools. And by right tools I don’t mean a fancy cherry pitter. All you need to prepare your cherries is a paring knife, a colander or large bowl to hold the cherries, something to hold the stems and pits and a large paper clip. That’s right, a humble paper clip. Naturally, when I needed one there were none to be had, but a spring clamp worked fine.
Give the cherries a nice rinse under cool water and remove any loose leaves, stems or ugly fruits. Insert the end of the paper clip into the stem end and use the loop to pull the pit out. Drop the pit along with the stem into a small bowl. While the cherry is in your hand, trim any soft bits then drop the cherry into another bowl. It doesn’t take long to figure out the motion and a few pounds of fruit is quickly taken care of.
This jam doesn’t use any pectin or gelling agent. The sugar and the naturally occurring pectin in the lemon juice helps it to set. Ordinarily the ratio of sugar to fruit is equal parts. I’ve reduced it and feel the jam is still plenty sweet, although it seemed to have to cook longer than other jams I’ve made. (There are products available that will allow the fruit to gel with even less sugar. They also provide instructions…be warned, my family didn’t like the product when I tried it).
The balsamic vinegar is optional. We like white balsamic with fruit, but you may prefer the more assertive dark kind.
- 6 cups pitted cherries, cut in half
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used white balsamic)
- Juice of a large lemon (between 3 - 4 tablespoons)
- Plate a china plate in the freezer to test the jam for readiness.
- Bring the cherries and sugar to a rolling boil over high heat.
- Use a potato masher to crush the fruit as it's cooking.
- If any scum forms, skim it off with a spoon.
- When the liquid begins to thicken add the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.
- Continue to cook for a few minutes more. Make sure to stir frequently.
- You'll notice the jam will become really shiny and it will cling to the spoon instead of pouring off.
- Remove the plate from the freezer and transfer a small amount of the liquid to the plate.
- Return the plate to the freezer and after a few minutes pull your finger through the puddle of jam. You should see a path on the plate and what's on your finger should resemble jam.
- Transfer the jam to clean, heat proof jars. If freezing, make sure to leave plenty of head space.
- Store the jam in the fridge for several months, longer if freezing.
I have a collection of smaller, recycled jars that I like to use for quick jams and pickles. This jam is not intended for long term storage outside the refrigerator or freezer. The large amount of sugar used in traditional jams and jellies acts as a preservative and I’ve reduced the sugar by two thirds. You would also need special jars that seal and a pot large enough to use as a water bath. None of which is necessary for a small batch that will be eaten in a month or so.