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~ 'Tis True: Sour Cherries Do Make the Best Jam ~

PICT0007In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever enounter.  My grandmother referred to these tart, ruby-red jewels simply as "pie cherries", but if you are on a quest for them, they are also marketed as tart cherries.  That being said, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the very end of June or the very beginning of July. Picking them is a bit tricky, as they are at their absolute best if left on the tree until you think they will begin to spoil if left there one more day, while at the same time, getting them all picked at once before the birds devour an entire tree full... birds love sour cherries.

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc594ba970b-800wiA bit about sour cherries:  Sour cherries should not be confused with their two cousins, the reddish-black Bing cherry or the peachy-blush Rainier cherry.  These two sweet cherries (which are larger and firmer than sour cherries) are great for eating "as is" like any other fresh fruit, but they do not make for great baked desserts.  When sour cherries are cooked, they become quite sweet, plus, they hold their shape better than their sweet relatives.  Sour cherries are a bit too tart to eat more than just a few out-of-hand, but they make superb jam (which I'm making today), preserves, pies and cobblers. Once the cherries are picked, you have no more than 48 hours to "use them or loose them", which is why you will rarely find them in the grocery store.

PICT0002Meet our now 15-year-old sour cherry tree.  For whatever reasons, it loves where it lives and gifts us each year with record amounts of gorgeous cherries.  Last year holds the record for the most cherries with 38 pounds of delectable goodness. This year, we only got 27 pounds, but that is because the birds helped themselves to a few pounds at the top of the tree.  So, what do I do with all these cherries?  Well, I make a few pies, then freeze the rest in 2 pound bags, or, make preserves... but first they need to be pitted.

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc5b782970b-320wi-1I admit to having been overwhelmed the first year our tree bore fruit.  But, by the next year I had done my homework and invested in the best dang cherry stoner money could buy:

The Westmark Cherry Stoner is made in Germany and no cherry pitter is faster or more efficient at removing the stones from a lot of cherries without bruising the fruit.  In about 2 hours, we literally have all of our cherries ready for cooking or freezing.

This nifty little gadget is a bit pricy ($55.00-$65.00), but if you have a lot of any type of cherries to process, this machine is for you.

6a0120a8551282970b015434038c57970c-320wiIf you make a lot of jellies, jams, preserves, marmalades or chutney and conserve, you might want to consider a maslin pot.  This 10 1/2-quart pot is ideal for long, slow methods of food preparation.  It has a heavy bottom and wide, sloping sides which reduce the possibility of scorching and promotes evaporation.  Its heavy loop handle and helper handle make transporting a large quantity of hot food easy and safe.  This pot is fantastic for jams, soups, stews, chili, etc. (about $190.00). 


It's Time to Prep the Cherries.

PICT0001 PICT00088  pounds pitted sour cherries (weigh after pitting), coarsely smashed or mashed

6  cups sugar

4  tablespoons wild cherry brandy

2  packets liquid pectin

2  tablespoons salted butter 

A bit about pectin:  It's a water-soluable, gelatinlike substance (usually made from apples) used for thickening fruits that don't contain enough to thicken themselves.

PICT0006~ Step 1.  Place the cherries in a large bowl.  Using your hands (feel free to wear vinyl gloves), squeeze the cherries, until they are smashed into coarse bits and pieces.

Note:  Alternative methods are to use a vegetable masher or a food processor.  I have tried both and take it from me, using your hands is the easiest, quickest and best way to get the proper, chunky uniform consistency without pulverizing or over processing them!



It's Time to Make the Jam. 

PICT0003~ Step 1.  Transfer the cherries to an 8-10-quart, wide-bottomed pot. Add the sugar and the cherry brandy.

PICT0012~ Step 2. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to rest for 20-30 minutes.  This will allow the sugar to dissolve completely.

PICT0012 PICT0002~ Step 3. Briefly restir. Mixture will be soupy and shiny.  

~ Step 4.  Add the butter and bring to a vigorous simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat to a rapid, steady simmer and continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

PICT0023~ Step 5.  Add the pectin and stir constantly until it is completely dissolved.  Continue to simmer vigorously, stirring frequently for 15 more minutes...





... or until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, is reduced slightly and leaving a tell-tale sugar ring around the sides of the pot.

~ Step 6.  Turn the heat off and allow to rest, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, prior to portioning, cooling completely and refrigerating or freezing:



'Tis True:  Sour Cherries Do Make the Best Jam:  Recipe yields 14 cups of jam.

Special Equipment List:  cherry pitter; vinyl gloves (optional); 10-quart jam pot or 8-12-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; large spoon; ladle; freezer safe food storage containers

6a0120a8551282970b015434047a79970c-800wiCook's Note:  To try my recipe for ~ Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine ~ click into Categories 8, 9 or 22!

Extra Cooks's Note:  What is the difference beween jelly, jam, preserves and marmalade?  Jelly is made from fruit juice and is gelantinous in texture.  Jam is made from pulp, pureed, smashed or mashed fruit and is softer and slightly more spreadable than jelly. Preserves are made from diced, chunked or whole fruit with the end result being looser than jam, even oozy or syrupy. Marmalade is made from citrus fruit, usually contains thin slices or small pieces of citrus rind and has a consistency between jelly and jam!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitche/Copyright 2012)


Jan -- The jam stores nicely in the freezer for a year or longer. I take them out of the freezer, one-at-a-time, place a container in the refrigerator to thaw overnight, and, keep it in a tightly-covered container for 4-6 weeks (but it's usually gone long before that). ~ Melanie

how long can you keep in fridge, freezer? once you take out of freezer, how long will it keep in fridge?

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