Cherries DO have enough pectin to set a jam, if you’re willing to chop the fruit finely. This smooth cherry jam starts with unpitted cherries to make the process even easier.
Start by putting the cherries in a heavy pot, and crush them with a potato masher. Use a tall pot to contain the splatter of cherry juice. When there’s juice in the bottom of the pot, cook the cherries until they are soft. Then you’ll be able to cool the cherries and separate the pits with your fingers. This is easier than using a cherry pitter on raw cherries, but it does make a bit of a mess. You might want to use gloves so your fingers don’t end up being dyed pink.
A note on equipment: I like using this 4-quart pot to cook small to medium batches of jam. It has a gently rounded bottom so that no sharp corner traps anything.
Smooth Cherry Jam
- 3 lbs dark sweet cherries
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ tsp unsalted butter
- Prepare jars and any other equipment. Make sure your jars are sparkling clean. Wash the lids in warm water and set aside. Keep the bands handy. Have an extra small jar, or custard cup, clean and ready for any excess jam. Put a couple of small saucers in the freezer to chill so they’ll be ready for testing the jam.
- Rinse the cherries and remove their stems. Don’t bother to pit them, but put them in a tall heavy pot and crush a bit, carefully, with a potato masher. Try not to splatter juice everywhere! You should end up with enough juice to cover the bottom of the pot. If not, add a tablespoon or two of water.
- Bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally, and simmer 15 minutes, until the cherries are very soft and the pits separate. Remove from the heat and let stand, uncovered, to cool a bit.
- Once the cherries are cool enough to handle, pick out the pits and discard them. Be sure to get all the pits out – check twice! Blitz the cherries with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, or put them through a food mill.
- Combine cherry purée, lemon juice, sugar, and a tiny pat of butter in a preserving pan (I use this 4-qt one). Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it bubbles and looks quite thick. I like to test for doneness by putting a spoonful on a saucer, and chilling it in the refrigerator for 2 minutes. After that time, if I can drag my finger through the jam, and leave a clear track that doesn’t fill in again, it’s ready. In my kitchen, this took about 10 minutes more.
- When the jam is ready, remove the pot from the heat. Ladle jam into prepared jars, wipe rims, and apply lids and bands. Anything that won’t fit in your four jars can go into the clean custard cup – chill it in the fridge, this is perfect with yogurt or on toast for breakfast!
- Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool jars, label, and store in a dark cool place.