Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cherry Jam

I read a story once about a French girl who made a mistake when she was making cherry jam, but went ahead and finished the recipe. Instead of regular cherry jam she made caramelized cherry jam. No, that wasn't really the point of the story, and it wasn't really all about this girl and her serious jam-making issues. I just thought it sounded really good and decided to try to make caramelized cherry jam accidentally on purpose. The end.

As much as I like cherries and regular cherry jam, a caramelized version sounded like it would have much more vanilla-y-ness and depth and flavor to it.

Well, it was ok... but nothing to write home about. It didn't turn out as I had imagined.
It wasn't awful, just a little different- and I can't quite put my finger on what it was!
Caramel and cherries can't be all that bad! So, what happened?

I wish I knew what the girl in the story did!
In the recipe that I used for cherry jam there was a warning about caramelization and over-cooking the cherries... apparently this is not a great idea and does not taste good.
Because of this, I decided to cook the cherries, caramelize the sugar separately, and then add the cherries to the sugar.
But no, it didn't work as I had hoped.

One thing about jam is that it can be sort of an ordeal to make, but it doesn't take that much extra time or effort to make a larger amount. I figure that I should just increase the fruit and make more while I'm at it. With cherries it depends on how many you're willing to pit! A cherry/olive pitter makes quick work of the task, but not everyone has one of those around. I know some people use a paper clip, but I have never tried it. Apparently you have to un-bend the paperclip into an "S" shape and then use the "U" part of one end to scoop the pit out from the stem end. I hope that makes sense!

I've made some "decisions" in the recipe here (of course), as it was originally a "no-recipe recipe"- and no, it's not caramelized. It's just cherry jam.

It's easily halved if you don't want all that jam.
This is another "soft" jam- not stiff, and would once again be good on whatever you choose- toast, pancakes, crepes, waffles, yogurt, between layers of a cake, as a filling for a rustic free-form tart...

Cherry Jam
Adapted from David Lebovitz

4 lb. fresh cherries
about 6 cups sugar
juice of two lemons (to add pectin and help the jam gel)
zest of one lemon

Rinse the cherries, remove the stems, and pit the cherries. Chop 2/3 to 3/4 of the cherries into smaller pieces. In a large nonreactive pan (not aluminum) cook pitted cherries, lemon juice, and zest over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are soft and release their juice (about 15-20 mintues).
Measure the amount of cherries and juice add 3/4 that amount of sugar with the cherries in the pan. So, if you have 8 cups of cherries, use 6 cups of sugar (you need this much to keep them from spoiling).
Place a small white plate in the freezer.
Continue cooking cherries and sugar over medium to high heat, stir frequently and scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure your cherries do not scorch.
Once the bubbles subside and the jam looks as if it is thickening and beginning to gel, turn off the heat and place a small amount of jam on the "frozen" plate and return it to the freezer. After a few minutes if you nudge it and it wrinkles, it's done. If not, cook a bit longer, turn off the heat, and test it again. Be careful that it does not over cook because you can't salvage it (sort of like a haircut- you can't put it back).
Once gelled, if you would like you could add some kirsch.
Ladle the warm jam into clean jars, cover, them cool to room temperature. Place cooled jam in refrigerator where it should keep for several months.


  1. OH. MY. GOODNESS. Do you know how much I love cherry jam?!?!?!?! And now I have a recipe to make my own!!!!!! You just made my day Natalie. Now, how do I make it and not eat it until the baby comes... ???
    "should keep for several months." Hmmm... baby will be here in 2 weeks or less. I can do it.


  2. You're very welcome! You could also add just a couple drops of almond extract if you'd like to enhance the cherry-ness...

  3. Don't get me wrong- it's not that we don't plan to eat this cherry jam. All of it will be eaten!