Cherry Jam Recipe
Early summer just isn’t summer without Cherries and what better way of preserving them than Cherry Jam. Last year we were yo-yoing back and forth from Dublin to our house in the Langhe Hills in Piemonte, Italy. It was a difficult time, particularly as it seemed that each time we left for a couple of weeks in Dublin we had to leave soon to be ripe fruit on the trees that we knew we wouldn’t be able to pick or enjoy, each time we came back to Langhe all that remained were pips on the ground from where the birds had had a feast and rotting peaches and figs on the trees glaring at us with a look of abject disappointment that they had grown into ripe juicy fruits for nothing! A very painful summer. This year, and now permanently ensconced, with no weeks away, I have taken every action to use the garden fruits in every imaginable way possible.
The first main fruit season is now and it’s Cherries! Cherries come into being ripe from last week of May here in Langhe. June in England from my mother’s account of her own cherry tree in the garden.
We were lucky to not have so many greedy birds this year and picked a great 9 kilo’s of ripe cherries from the lower branches of our huge cherry tree, we have no cherry picker machine so have kindly left the top half of the tree for the birds and wasps!
The first recipe I made was Cherry Jam.
Cherry Jam Recipe – makes 3 x 150ml jars
750g ripe Cherries
Juice of 1 lemon
Step 1. Get your cherries – if picking yourself don’t delay in using them, ours started to turn into rotting cherries after 1 day (we use zero chemicals in our garden, which means speed is of the essence in preserving them)
Step 2. Sterilise your jars and lids. There are so many ways to do this. I wash them in hot soapy water (personally using organic non-chemical washing up liquid) Bicarbonate of soda is also great for sterilising. I then pop them all in a warmed oven at 120 degrees for 15 mins until bone dry. Jars and lids should still be hot when you put the jam in, so you might want to the sterilising as you are cooking the jam.
Step 3. Place 6 small saucers in the freezer for the wrinkle test later in the process (see step 9)
Step 4. Wash and pit your cherries, I left ¼ of them as whole as possible and halved ¾ of them. Yes, your heart will sink at this, pitting cherries is a long painful process if you want to spoon out whole cherries in your jam, if not and you don’t mind the cherry form missing in your jam you can cut them in half and slip the stone out. If you want some whole you can only make a nick in the top and gently squeeze the pip out without the juicy flesh! A great help to me on Twitter is Jan @thewatchfulcook www.thewatchfulcook.co.uk and she has helpfully recommended the de-stoner at http://www.divertimenti.co.uk/cherry-stoner.html this is on my Christmas list this year (Mum are you reading this?! 😊)
Step 5. Put the cherries in a maslin pan if you have one, these pans are great for making jam, as they have a thick bottom to stop the jam burning (still have to stir), use a heavy bottomed pan as an alternative.
Step 6. Add the lemon juice to the cherries in the pan and put on a low heat until the cherries are cooked, roughly 7 mins. Give the cherries a soft mash during this cooking with a potato masher to get the juices flowing a bit (not so hard that you break up the whole ones though!).
Step 7. Add the sugar to the cherries and lemon juice in the pan keeping the heat on low until dissolved, stir frequently to dissolve sugar and check for crystals on the spoon, best use a wooden spoon for this so you can see the crystals. Once there are no crystals left turn up the heat to bring to a boil stirring regularly.
Step 8. Once at boiling stage keep the heat up on a rolling boil this can be 10-25mins or more, it depends on how hot you can get it. Stir regularly to prevent cherries sticking to the bottom and burning. If you have a jam thermometer reading you need to aim for 104 celcius , but there is no set time, as every hob and pan is different.
Step 9. When you get close to the setting point (I normally start testing at 95 celcius) start doing the ‘wrinkle test’ for the true jam setting point. Unless you want a runny jam, or a stiff as a board jam, the wrinkle test is fairly important. Take a saucer out of the freezer and pop a teaspoon of the hot jam on the saucer and put back in the freezer, wait a minute and then take the saucer out and push your finger through it slowly, if it just wrinkles it is ready to take off the heat and bottle. If your finger just runs through without a wrinkle appearing keep the jam on the heat. Repeat this every minute until it just wrinkles (if it becomes a stiff and hard wrinkle the jam will be stiff and hard when eating). This testing can be painful, I had to use 6 saucers until I saw the jam just wrinkle! I’m sure there are expert jam makers you have a few more tricks up their sleeves and I would love tips! I probably need to get a proper jam thermometer too, at the moment I am using a meat thermometer and the reading is less accurate!
Step 10. If you are fortunate to have a jam/sauce funnel for bottling purposes ladle out some jam into the funnel and slip it into the jars leaving 1/2 inch at the top of the jar. If you don’t have a jam funnel (I don’t) ladle out some jam into a warmed pyrex measuring jar and pour into the jar. This all needs to be done fast as the jars need to be still fairly hot to ensure the jam seals the jar.
Step. 11 Put the lids on fast and tighten, sit down and relax. It’s done. An hour or so later you should start hearing the wonderful ‘pop’ sound of the lid sealing. The next day check the tops of the lids, those that have popped in, and aren’t making the dreadful ‘click’ noise every time you push your finger on the middle of the lid, are good to be stored for up to a year in a dark cupboard. Those that have the clicking going on need to be eaten first and put in the fridge – well something has to be eaten first, I am usually happy if one is not sealed for this purpose!
Burnt Cherry Jam Recipe
I know, ‘Burnt Cherry Jam’ what the dickens! A couple of summers back I left some strawberry jam on the rolling boil for too long without stirring and some got stuck to the bottom of the pan. By the time I got to bottling it the jam had taken on more of a dark strawberry look and was quite caramelised. When we ate it, it tasted amazing, a rich treacly strawberry taste. It was a great discovery.
This year Andrew decided to make his first ever jam with the Cherry jam recipe above and guess what? He made the same ‘error’ and forgot to stir enough and lo and behold burnt cherries at the bottom of the pan. But again, when bottling the cherry jam was dark and treacly and a finger dip taste test revealed a wonderful taste reminiscent of the burnt strawberry jam. Even mistakes can taste good!
Clare, 41, living the 'dolce vita' in Piemonte in the Langhe Hills. This new blog is dedicated to the delicious food and drink of the Italian Piedmont region. To read more about our new life in the Langhe we have a life in Piemonte blog here