Last Christmas my father-in-law gave me a cook book called "The Blue Chair Jam cookbook". Honestly I don't know if I love any cookbook more than this one. The gal who wrote this is like the "America's Test Kitchen" of Jam making. I do love America's Test Kitchen so this statement really speaks volumes.
This cookbook goes over all the scientific ins and outs of why things are done plus she divides the book's recipes into seasons. In my opinion this is the best thing about the book. Up until owning this book, I had never even attempted making jelly, jam or marmalade. I certainly had never even imagined trying to make jam in January/February but this year I made 3 different batches of marmalade.
Another thing I find absolutely wonderful about this cookbook is that pectin is never incorporated in the recipe. She goes over all the details on a fruit by fruit recipe on how to prepare the jam or marmalade so no commercial pectin needs to be added. You use the natural pectins already found in the fruit... The fruit flavors shine!
My hope is that this post will inspire you to get out, find some fresh fruit and make some jam.
We are fortunate enough to have friends who just bought a house with a pie cherry tree in the backyard. The "Beer Guy" at the Boise Community Food Coop and my husband spend way too much time together. :-) They want to brew a "sour cherry beer", but that isn't happening this year. All of the cherries I used in my jam were picked from Matt and Arwen's tree. Luv you guys!!
So now.......what you've all been waiting for.....the recipe. Straight from the cookbook.
3 pounds + 1 pound pitted tart cherries (reserve pits)
1 3/4 pounds + 7 ounces white cane sugar
5 3/4 ounces strained, freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 to 4 tablespoons maraschino liqueur
(this photo shows far more than 4 pounds of cherries. I had 8 pounds of cherries to work with on my first batch. It is easy to scale it up.)
Place 5 spoons in freezer before starting this process. The reason why is explained later in the post.
Remove pits from cherries.
I placed the pitted cherries in the bowl with "Fruit Fresh" to keep the color bright. I found this especially helpful on my second batch of cherry jam. I pitted the cherries the night before to save myself some time the following day.
We now have 2 OXO cherry pitters. 8 pounds of little sour cherries was a bunch to pit. My husband ran out and bought another just to help me.
Remove the tiny almond like kernel from the center of the cherry pit.
So tedious, but so worth the effort!
My husband came to the rescue once again. He got out a hammer and gently tapped the pits (between a towel) until they cracked open. Gathering enough kernels for me to use. You should have about 3 tbsp of them. Eat one, they taste just like amaretto/marachino!
In bowl combine the following:
3 pounds cherries
1 3/4 pounds sugar
5 3/4 ounces lemon juice
3 to 4 tablespoons maraschino liqueur
Mix together and set aside
In a non reactive pot place the following:
1 pound cherries
7 ounces sugar
2 ounces water
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Gradually inching up the heat to medium, until the mixture boils.
Then cook until the cherries have shriveled and the liquid has become thick and syrupy.
The mixture should look similar to this when it is ready for the next step.
Once the cherries have shriveled. Immediately pour the hot cherries into a metal strainer over a bowl.
Press down on cooked cherries. Draining as much liquid as possible from the fruit.
Discard the cooked cherries and keep the liquid.
Combine the cherry mixture you had set aside earlier with the liquid you just gathered from above.
Stir well to combine.
Place a tea infuser filled with the cherry kernels into the pot.
Place mixture on stove over medium heat. Bring to a boil, gradually increasing the heat to high.
Boil rapidly, stirring every few minutes for 10 to 15 minutes. Monitor the heat closely as you stir; if the jam begins to stick, decrease the heat slightly.
Between stirrings. Use a stainless steel spoon to skim foam off of mixture.
After 10 to 15 minutes of boiling....remove the mixture from the heat. Let rest for a moment. During this time, scrape off foam.
(Sorry no foam removal photos....my husband was off to friends by this time and I didn't have an extra hand.)
While you are cooking the mixture from step 10....I suggest you start working on cleaning and sanitizing of jars. I use the hot water bath method. It can take awhile for the water to become hot enough to sterilize the glass.
Return the jam to the stove....after the moments rest. Place over medium high heat and continue to cook, stirring frequently. If necessary, gradually reduce the heat to prevent scorching.
After about 5 minutes you will want to test the jam for doneness. To do so, remove the jam from heat. Place a small amount of jam on a spoon you have just removed from the freezer. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove from freezer and do a "spoon test". To test, you need to tilt the spoon vertically to see whether the jam runs. The jam is finished when it is "reluctant to run and has thickened to a near-jelly consistency". If it runs right off the spoon you'll need to return the jam to the stove and continue cooking. Periodically retesting the mixture for doneness.
(Again no photo--sorry)
When jam is done. Place jam in sterilized canning jars.
Process jars in hot water bath according to the manufacturers directions.
Now you have YUMMY Jam to enjoy all year long.
This particular batch was a little thick, but there are (no kidding) a pound of cherries in every jar!!