Monday, May 30, 2011

Small Batch Sour Cherry Jam

Earlier this month, when we were picking strawberries, I noticed that the pick-your-own place also had a few cherry trees. It's been over twenty years since I've picked cherries, but I have very distinct memories of my mother buying a bucket of cherries from the market in Dushanbe, and gathering the family in the kitchen to prepare and process them for jams and compotes. I was pitting cherries by the time I was four or five years old--sour cherries, mostly, as their sweet counterparts weren't valued for preserves, but for eating out of hand. I remember being quite fond of eating the sour cherries fresh then too, despite finding them a bit too tart for my present tastes. Sprinkled with even a little bit of sugar--which actually helps draw out the fullness of the sour cherry flavor--they are exquisite.

So when I spotted the cherry trees, I knew that I would be back to pick the cherries; and once I tasted them while picking, I knew that I wanted to make something simple, with just a touch of sugar. By the time I finished making boozy cherries, I had just over two pounds of un-pitted cherries left for this beautiful, low-sugar jam.
Sour cherry jam in the front, boozy cherries in the back

Sour Cherry Jam


  • 4.5 cups pitted and mashed sour cherries
  • 1.5 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons Pomona's pectin*
  • 1.5 teaspoons calcium water (mix included in pectin box)


1. Prepare jars, canner (or a medium pot, as this is a small batch of jam), and cherries. I started out with just over two pounds of fruit, and by the time they were pitted and mashed in the preserving pan, I had about 4.5 cups.
2. Add half a cup of sugar, lemon juice, and calcium water to the cherries in the preserving pan, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
3. Meanwhile, mix up the remaining sugar with the pectin in a medium bowl; set aside.
4. Cook the cherries on medium heat for 15 minutes; you want the cherries to fully release their juices, but you don't want to overcook the fruit. While cooking, skim off any foam that may form.
5. Once the jam has the desired consistency, add the pectin and sugar mixture, and bring the jam to a rolling boil for two minutes. If you want, check the set of the jam; my jam has a medium-firm set, but I think that this would be great even as a sauce, if you want to omit the pectin.
6. Pour jam into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace; wipe the rims and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Approximately 2 pints.

Is this jam worth the trouble for such a small batch? Absolutely. It's much more sophisticated than a simple strawberry jam, and unusual. This past weekend, in addition to the drunken cherries, I also made a sweet cherry-rhubarb jam, and I can safely say that the sour cherry jam is my favorite of all.

*Sour cherries have a higher pectin content than sweet cherries, so I kept the amount of pectin quite low.


Gabrielle said...

WHere did you find the cherries? What farm? I'd love to pick some and can them, too!

zemmely said...

There are a couple trees at the Fruit and Berry Patch in Halls. The cherries will only last a couple more days. Good luck!

radioactivegan said...

Do you have any idea what the weight of 4.5 cups of cherries would be? I'd like to get some at the farmer's market to try this out.

zemmely said...

" just over two pounds of un-pitted cherries"--although (if you can), get a little more...

You're lucky that you still have cherries up there--they're all finished in TN, of course, and I've been out of town so much this month, I think I'll miss plums, too.
Let me know how it turns out!