Homemade cherry jam
Homemade cherry jam – quick and easy to make from either fresh or frozen cherries. You can make this jam with or without pectin. Use a canning technique to preserve it for a few months or keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Serve over cheesecakes, crepes, pancakes or toast.
This homemade cherry jam is made with regular white sugar, but liquid sweeteners and low carb ones could be also used.
Cherry season and cherry varieties
Cherry season ranges from mid May to early August, depending on where in the northern hemisphere you are located. According to different calculations, there are over 1,200 cherry varieties in the world, each with a unique taste and appearance.
I’m currently in Europe with my whole family and luckily there is a cherry overload here right now. Why an overload?
Because both my grandmothers have cherry trees in their backyards, that are quite ripe and need to be picked. Then we can enjoy as much fresh sweet cherries as we would like and freeze and preserve some.
Back in the US, I had never been to a cherry farm. We don’t have any of these in Illinois.
I always purchase cherries from Costco or the Farmer’s Market. The quantities I purchase are not huge, just enough to use in a dessert, salad or to just eat on its own.
Preserving fresh cherries
When the time of the year for picking cherries comes, you have about a week to pick those fresh cherries from your cherry tree (if you have one), otherwise they will go bad. Insects and birds might start eating cherries off the tree, even though they have been treated with certain chemicals for worms. Sometimes rain washes the chemicals away.
So you end up with a lot of fresh cherries, that you can’t eat all at once. And even if they are picked off the tree with the stems on, they will last no more than 2 days in a cool and dry place or 3-4 days on the refrigerator. But who has a refrigerator that big?
You need to act fast, so you can preserve as much cherries as possible.
My husband requested that I freeze some pitted cherries for smoothies. Make sure you check this Cherry Smoothie recipe out, if you like smoothies.
Wash the cherries, then remove the pits by either using a cherry pitter, your fingers or like some people using a Bobby pin.
Freeze on a parchment paper for 1 hour, then transfer to freezer safe bags (zip lock bags) and keep in the fridge for up to 6 months. I like putting 1 or 2 cups of frozen cherries in each bag.
Canning is a common method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container. This provides shelf life of the canned foods from 6 months to up to 5 years. Depending on what you are canning, the shelf life could be much longer.
To prevent the food from being spoiled before and during containment, a number of methods are used: pasteurisation, boiling (and other applications of high temperature over a period of time), refrigeration, freezing, drying, vacuum treatment, antimicrobial agents that are natural to the recipe of the foods being preserved, a sufficient dose of ionizing radiation, submersion in a strong saline solution, acid, base, osmotically extreme (for example very sugary) or other microbially-challenging environments.
Other than sterilization, no method is perfectly dependable as a preservative. For example, the spores of the microorganism Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism) can be eliminated only at temperatures above the boiling point of water.
From a public safety point of view, foods with low acidity (a pH more than 4.6) need sterilization under high temperature (116–130 °C). To achieve temperatures above the boiling point requires the use of a pressure canner. Foods that must be pressure canned include most vegetables, meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products. The only foods that may be safely canned in an ordinary boiling water bath are highly acidic ones with a pH below 4.6, such as fruits, pickled vegetables, or other foods to which acidic additives have been added.
Difference between jam, jelly and preserves
This is a question that rises at times and I believe it needs to be clarified. The biggest difference between jelly, jam, and fruit preserves is how much of the original fruit is used to make them
Jam is made from whole or cut up pieces of fruit with sugar. It is cooked until the fruit reduces ad thickens.
Jelly is made from only the fruit juice and sugar. No pulp, seeds or pieces of fruit. Pectin is often used to make jelly.
Fruit Preserves contains the most fruit of all. Fruit could be either whole or chopped. Sometimes, the preserves will be held together in a loose sugar fruit syrup, other times, the liquid is more jammy and jellified.
Marmalade is just preserves made with citrus—using the whole fruit, along with the rind
A jam made with whole cherries and no pectin. See the picture below.
Sugar amount in homemade jams
I’m usually the type of cook, who will try to reduce the amounts of sugar (and salt) in recipes as much as possible, without sacrificing the taste of the final dish.
With canning and preserving food there are certain norms, that need to be followed, since sugar also acts as a preservative.
But the amount of sugar per pound (or kilo) of fruit in jams varies.
Some jam recipes call for equal amounts of fruit and sugar. Others make some form of a sugar syrup (simple syrup) and add the fruit to is to cook further.
For sweeter fruits the fruit to sugar ratio is 2:1. For more bitter fruits like oranges, you should use more sugar than fruit.
I usually use 1/2 kilos of sugar per 1 kilo of fruit for most of my jams. Sometimes I reduce the sugar with 10-20 % if the fruit seems to be too sweet. You can also increase the amount of sugar if the fruit does not appear sweet enough.
But again, is all depends on how sweet you like your jams to be. I’d say follow the 2:1 fruit:sugar ratio to be safe. (I know I sometimes reduce the sugar amount even further).
What cherries to use to make cherry jam at home?
Any red cherries you have on hand will work. I’m working on a post about sour (tart) cherries and rainier cherries next.
With so many different varieties like Bing, Lambert and Tulare. They vary in size, shape, color and sweetness.
Any cherries will work in the recipe, just make sure you use the proper amount of sugar.
Canned or refrigerator cherry jam
Jam without sterilization (hot water bath). You can make this jam and skip the sterilization step.
Of course the jars and lids should be boiled in water for 15 minutes, before filling, but after you fill them with jam, close the lids and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. This is easy, but needs to be consumed fast, unlike the jam you sterilize during the canning process.
I understand there are people out there making jams and closing the jars while still very hot, skipping the sterilization step, claiming that the jam is perfectly fine for years and it is safe to eat.
I personally as a cook and food blogger do not advise you do this, or if you do it, this is your decision and you are taking a risk.
To kill all bacteria and reduce the risk of botulism, you must sterilize the jars in hot boiling water for 15 minutes. This way they are safe to be kept outside of the fridge for up to 1 year or even more. Once you open a jar of jam, keep the leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 month.
What to use cherry jam for?
You can use homemade cherry jam just like any other jam you make or buy from the store. Here are just some suggestions with recipes which you can make with this jam. I like making homemade jams, because I can use them on thumbprint cookies, french toast and in cake filings.
There is nothing better than homemade jam, made with the best harvest and the amount of sugar (sweetener) you prefer.
- Cherry jam thumbprint cookies
- Pinwheel cookies with cherry jam
- Easy almond Linzer cookies
- Homemade crepes
Homemade cherry jam
- 1 kg 2 lbs pitted cherries, preferably ripe and sweet
- 400-500 grams 1 lb white sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract — optional
- 1 tbsp butter — optional
- If using pectin — follow the directions on the package, this jam is fine without it
Remove pits from washed cherries. Chop all or half of them into small pieces, leave some whole if you’d like.
Place cherries in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Add sugar on top and stir. Let them sit for 30 minutes to up to 3 hours.
Turn the heat on and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low. If the mixture is starting to foam, your can try to remove some of the foam with a spoon.
Place a plate in the freezer. (Optional for testing the jam).
Cook for 20 minutes, the cherries will become soft and darken in color.
It will thicken.
Test the jam: Add a few drops of it to the cold plate. When you touch the cooled jam, it should wrinkle in your fingers, rather than stick or stay runny.
Add the butter (optional).
Let the jam cool for 10 minutes, before you pour it into clean jars.
Don’t overfill the jars. Close the lids.
- Makes 4 (375 gram) jars
After 15 minutes of boil, add the pectin mixed with sugar. Stir. Cook for 5 more minutes. The canning jars and lids should be perfectly clean, washed with hot water. Boil for 10-20 minutes to sterilize the jars and lids, then dry on a clean towel.
Use a sterilizer if you’d like to (recommended).
Sterilization of the filled jars:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (Make sure it is taller than the actual jars, so you have room to cover them in water and allow boiling).
Drop the jars into the boiling water using a wire rack.
Boil for 15 minutes. Take the jars out. Keep in a cool and dry place for up to 6 months.