I love cherry jam! I’ve been slow to come to love cherries, perhaps as a result of too many badly-flavored medicines. But I got hooked on this brand in the Czech Republic: chunks of cherry in sweet preserves on warm bread is simply delicious. Further bringing me “to the light” was that in in the little town where I lived in the Czech Republic, cherry trees were everywhere–on rural footpaths, along the country roads. One of my fond memories is where the more intrepid of my English students climbed up a cherry tree, leaving the rest of us to catch all the cherries that they rained down. Really, there were too many cherries to eat–maybe 50c a kilo in the stores at their peak. No need to buy these of course in the village, but a great way to enjoy the subsequent year when I lived in Prague.
Well, I’m sure at least some of those students had babickas who were making nice jams. I am sure my own Czech teacher (who arrived at my apartment with about a half-gallon of homemade chicken soup when I twisted my ankle) even could have shared a recipe had I asked.
Having caught the “canning bug” as it were off my last batch, and having trolled the websites of the local pick-your-owns, I saw cherries were next in season. I ordered a cherry stoner off ebay and waited. However, thanks to our never-ending rain, my inquiries were met with the response that in fact there were few if any cherries this year–they either hadn’t ripened or had burst on the tree from the excess water!
I was disheartened–I figured cherry picking would be the only economical way to get enough cherries for jam, as they are so expensive in the stores (even in season, I guess because we are not a cherry-producing region). However, last week I noticed a big sale on cherries and snapped up several pounds. It turns out I substantially overbought, but that’s not such a bad thing. It is also nice to know you don’t need so many pounds of cherries to make a decent-sized batch of jam.
I used the basic sweet cherry jam recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I left out all the optional “extras” (cinnamon, because I wasn’t sure I would like it, amaretto because we didn’t have it), maybe some other time. I was perfectly happy with the results using the “plainest” version of the recipe.
My cherry stoner was indeed helpful, once I figured it out. I had a bit of trouble assembling it as it did not come with instructions but I finally passed the intelligence test (um…with help). It’s quite simple to use and I can’t imagine pitting large amounts of cherries without it.
Stoned cherries into the pot: It’s amazing to me how much liquid is released when you cook the jam–you put the whole fruit into the pot and as it cooks it releases so much juice it’s almost as if you have a soup at the end.
Same drill as the strawberry jam, fill the jars and process. Once again, I didn’t have enough for the 6 half-pint jars you are supposed to be able to fill (this time I even gently packed in the cherries while measuring to be sure I had enough. Maybe my cherries were less juicy after travelling from Washington State. Yes, not local jam…sigh…but I really wanted to make cherry jam!)