Preserve the sweet cherry harvest to enjoy all year.
If you, like me, love sweet cherries you probably try to stretch the season. For me that means purchasing as soon as they hit the stores – even at exorbitant prices, and then preserving them as the summer moves on to other stone fruits. In the middle of that there is lots of eating out of hand of course!
Lots of people make jam with sour cherries, but you can also make wonderful jams with sweet cherries. The key is to add something that offsets the sweetness. Last year I made some Cherry-Lime Jam, this year it is this sweet jam with a touch of sharp ginger. The combination is terrific.
Of course, I did have an incentive to experiment even more with cherries. Once again this year I was asked to be a Washington State Fruit Commission Canbassador. It’s a job I love!
What is a Canbassador?
As a Canbassador my job is to make all kinds of wonderful preserved cherry items and then write about them.
You can find out lots more about our wonderful Washington stone fruits over at the SweetPreservation site. There are instructions for canning and freezing fruit, all kinds of ideas for throwing a “preservation party,” recipes, tips for choosing the best fruit at the grocery store, and professionally designed labels to download. You can even get a copy of the “Of course I canned” badge for your own blog.
Making Sweet Cherry Jam
Look at any jam pectin/acid list and sweet cherries pop up on the low list. For most people that means pectin must be added to the resulting jam. I don’t make pectin jams, I prefer the caramelization of long-cooking jams. But this recipe came together in minutes! I was very much surprised. So don’t stray too far from the stove while making this, or you will end up with cherry-ginger paste! Still good, just hard to spoon out of a jar.
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- 3 cups pitted sweet cherries, pitted
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 ½ Tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup water
- 3 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger
- Add the cherries, sugar, lemon juice and water to a large Dutch oven.
- Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
- Turn the heat up a little and cook rapidly, stirring often to prevent sticking, until the jam reaches the gelling point. Use the plate method to check for gelling or use a digital thermometer. Gelling is reached at 220 degrees or 8 degrees above the boiling point of water.
- Add the crystallized ginger stirring to evenly distribute throughout the jam.
- Spoon the hot jam into prepared jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
- Wipe the lip of each jar with a damp paper towel, top the jars with a lid and a lid ring.
- Process the jars in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool completely
Full disclosure: This recipe was made with cherries I received from the Washington State Fruit Commission.
Renee, don’t worry about the habanero. If you want a subtle hint, just add a whole pepper with just a slit cut in the side, and take it out when you’re done cooking. For a stronger taste, I only use the flesh of the pepper, whirled in the food processor with the fresh ginger and garlic. Only once did I use the seeds, too, and that one is hot. Start off slowly. Blackberries are just perfect right now, and they take really well to slight warmth of the pepper. Just try one batch, and you’ll be hooked. Promise!
Jane, I will trust your judgement and try it out! Unfortunately blackberries are very expensive on this side of the mountains. I occasionally purchase a little container for snacking, but seldom get enough to cook with. I did put in 6 plants last year, so hopefully by next year I will have enough to cook with. But I bet the habanero would be good with plums. And I wonder about quince. hmmmm……
I’m off to read more.
Wasn’t it a great summer for Washington cherries! I pitted over 10 pounds and made about 6 different batches, alone, and combined with plums. I spiced all of them differently. I, too, prefer pectin-free, longer-cooked jams. I cooked the plums with the cherries with the plums with the skins on, because I was afraid of its not jelling, but they all set up beautifully, although some might firm up a little in the jars. The plum-cherry chutney with habanero came out the best. So amazing with pork and chicken, and even good in yogurt and ice cream. Thanks for all your articles and recipes. I’ve read so many of them to help me be a free spirit in the kitchen. This was the most fun I’ve had in the kitchen for a long time.
I’d like to share a tip. I let all my fruit macerate overnight in the sugar to bring out the juices, rather than add water. For the cherries, because they were firmer, I did this in the pot for my electric pressure cooker, and then processed them for 2 minutes to start the juices flowing faster. Then I brought them to the boil with the added ingredients, top open, and cooked them in place. One pot, one 6-8 half-pint jars, easy clean-up. Win-win. I never use metal on my pots, so I only have to soak them in hot water with minimal soap, Anything remaining comes right off with a little baking soda, if necessary. I think that made the biggest difference for me from previous years. I am so looking forward to next year’s crop.
Wow Jane! You certainly were busy. I always love to hear of new creative combinations. The cherries were prolific this year, and perfect. I imagine the sweet-hot-tart combination for your chutney is a hit. I am never quite brave enough to cook with habaneros. I will share your tips in my next newsletter. Thank you for the kind words. Glad you enjoy the site. Keep on canning!