I love jam. On toast. In marinades for ribs and glazes for chicken. Warmed up and drizzled over vanilla ice cream. This sweet cherry jam is a fabulous way to enjoy cherries as they come into season. Because this jam has a lot of sugar, I never bother canning it. It will keep just fine in the fridge for a few weeks—if it lasts that long.
This recipe calls for 2 pounds of cherries, which is about all that I can bear to pit in one sitting. And that’s just fine. This recipe yields just about 2 cups of jam…which is more than enough for me for a few weeks.
This is one of the few tasks that I actually wear rubber gloves for, to help avoid staining my hands bright red.
How to use a cherry pitter
I use an old fashioned cherry pitter.
It squeezes together like a pair of scissors, and has a long spike on one end.
When you squeeze the pitter, the spike skewers the cherry and pops the pit right out. (It also tends to squirt out a little cherry juice, so be careful where you pit your cherries.)
Sweet Cherry Jam
2 lbs. cherries, pitted and stemmed
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 2 lemons
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups sugar
Yields about 2 cups of jam
Pit your cherries
Toss your cherries in a colander and rinse them well under cold water.
Heap them in a pile on the counter and grab a bowl.
Grab your cherry pitter.
Pull the stem off a cherry and set it on your pitter like this:
Squeeze the pitter closed, which will drive the spike through the center of the cherry.
This will send the cherry pit shooting out the other end of the pitter.
Put the pitted cherry in your bowl. Repeat with the rest of your cherries until you’ve pitted them all. (I think this took me about 20 minutes, maybe a little less.)
Chop half the pitted cherries
Once you’ve pitted all your cherries, take about half of them and set them on a board.
Roughly chop them up.
Put the chopped cherries back with in the bowl with the whole cherries.
Throw all the cherries in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot.
Zest and juice the lemons
Quickly scrape the zest off one lemon.
(You can zest both lemons, but I prefer less zest, so I only do one.)
Then slice both lemons in half and squeeze them into the pot. (I used a lemon reamer to be sure to get as much juice as I could.)
Toss in the lemon zest.
Give the pot a stir to combine your ingredients.
Simmer the fruit mixture
Set the pot on the stove over medium-high heat. After a few minutes, the juice in the pot should come up to a simmer.
Give it a stir. Drop the heat to low. Cover the pot and crack the lid a smidge. You want the fruit mixture to just simmer.
Keep a close eye on the pot. If the heat is too high, it can bubble up and over on you. (Take my word from experience…hot cherry juice is a m-e-s-s you don’t want to clean up.)
Simmer the fruit mixture like this 15-20 minutes.
After 15-20 minutes, the fruit should be soft and fairly broken down, like this:
Add the sugar to the fruit mixture
Add the sugar to the pot.
Give the pot a stir to combine well. Raise the heat and bring it back up to a simmer. Cook like this, uncovered, for maybe 6-8 minutes more.
As the jam simmers, it will thicken.
You want the jam mixture to get visibly thicker.
When you stir the jam, it should be so thick that you can see the bottom of the pot, like this:
How to test the jam for doneness
When it looks and feels thicker, give it a test. Dip the back of a metal spoon into the mixture. It should coat the back well, like this:
Next, drop a blob of jam onto a ceramic plate.
Put the plate in the freezer for a few minutes. When the jam is good and cold, give it a push with your finger. If it forms a skin and wrinkles up, like this, it should be thick enough to set up nicely.
Cool the jam and enjoy!
Take the jam pot off the stove and let it cool to room temperature. When it’s cool, transfer it to a bowl, cover it, and pop it in the fridge to cool completely.
Keep your jam tightly wrapped in the fridge and use up within the next few weeks.