Adding brown sugar gives cherry jam a deep, caramelized flavor.
It’s that time of the year again. The time when Northwest Cherry Growers send me a big box of the most beautiful cherries you have ever seen. They are almost too beautiful to eat. But I force myself. As you might imagine, it’s not much of a battle!
But the cherry season is so fleeting that I also preserve some to enjoy all year long. I always make at least one batch of Spirited Apricot Cherry Butter, and I also save some for smoothies later on – How to Freeze Sweet Cherries.
Then I start to get experiment. One year I made a delightful Cherry Jam with Lime. It was light and bright. This year I went for a different flavor palate and tried a deep caramelized cherry flavor instead.
What is a Canbassador?
Of course, all of this cherry creativity is courtesy of the Canbassador program. The Canbassador program is sponsored by the Washington State Fruit Commission and Northwest Cherry Growers.
As a Canbassador my job is to make all kinds of wonderful preserved cherry items and then share them with the SeedtoPantry community here on the blog. Cherries and other stone fruits are one of the reasons I love living in the Mid-Columbia. Commercial crops here include all kinds of sweet cherries, apricots, peaches, and plums. At one point we had two cherry trees of our own, but cut them down a few years ago. I just couldn’t get the same beautiful results the pros at Northwest Cherry Growers get.
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.
What is Muscovado Sugar?
Getting back to this particular recipe. The caramel flavor comes from using brown sugar. While you could use any brown sugar available, I prefer the deep molasses flavor of Muscovado sugar. Regular brown sugar is actually refined white sugar with added molasses. Muscovado sugar is a true brown sugar that is only partially refined. You can find it at specialty food shops or online. I usually order a case at a time as it lasts forever. However it does get hard, so you may want to purchase a brown sugar saver too.
Tips for Making Long-Cooking Jam
I never make soft spreads with commercial pectin. I prefer the texture and taste of long-cooking jams. But…… I find cherry jams in particular difficult to get just right without overcooking. Here are some things I have learned – so you don’t have to make the same mistakes:
- Long cooking cherry jams don’t always take a long time to cook. Yes, cherries are supposed to have almost no pectin, but that’s not my experience.
- This particular recipe might take anywhere from 10 minutes to 40 minutes to cook. It all depends on how hot your stove burner is, how heavy your pan is, how humid or arid the air is, and other issues. So watch it while it is cooking. Now is not the time to get on the treadmill!
- Since I have trouble using the plate method or the spoon method to check for jam gel, I recommend using a thermometer. Gel sets at 220 degrees, or 8 degrees above water boil temperature.
- This jam will not look like it has set at 220 degrees. It has. Trust me. Cook it longer and it becomes a sticky mess.
- Makes 3 (half-pint) jars.
- It is worth the trouble! This cherry jam has so much more flavor than a quick cooking cherry jam.
- 3 cups pitted, halved sweet cherries
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups packed Muscovado or other brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons water
- Add the all ingredients 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.
- Remove pan from burner. Stir until foam has disipated.
- 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 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.
Full disclosure: This recipe was made with cherries I received from the Washington State Fruit Commission.