Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Winging It Cherry Jam

As many cherries as you feel you can pit.
1 or 2 lemons
Several cups of sugar (see below*)
1 - 4 tablespoons of rum, depending on
   how many cherries you pitted.  (I
   usually end up with about 4 cups of
   cooked cherries & liquid and for that I
   use 3 tablespoons of rum.)

  • Pit as many cherries as you can (I usually sit in front of the TV doing this with the bag of cherries, large pot and another bag or bowl for the pits).  
  • After pitting cut up some of the cherries -- not all of them -- less than half.  
  • Cook the cherries in a large pot with just a 1/4 inch or less of water on the bottom just until they're starting to cook. The pot should be pretty big since the juices bubble up. 
  • Add the zest and juice from one or two fresh lemons -- and heck throw in the left over lemon carcasses with the cooking cherries -- to be removed later.  Lemon juice adds pectin as well as acidity, and will help the jam gel later on.
  • Cook the cherries some more, stirring once in a while with a heatproof spatula, until they’re wilted and completely soft, which may take about 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you give them. 
  • Once everything is all soft and cooked, take the lemon halves and throw them away.
  • Eye ball how many cherries you have (including the juice) and use 3/4 of the amount of sugar*. For example if you have about 4 cups of cooked cherry matter, add 3 cups of sugar. It may seem like a lot, but that amount of sugar is necessary to keep the jam from spoilage.
  • Stir the sugar and the cherries in the pot and cook over moderate-to-high heat. The best jam is cooked quickly. While it’s cooking, put a small plate in the freezer. Remain vigilant and stir the fruit often with a heatproof utensil. Scrape the bottom of the pot as you stir as well.
  • Once the bubbles start to subside and the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel, (it will coat the spatula in a clear, thick-ish, jelly-like layer, but not too thick) put a small amount of jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a minutes, when you nudge it, if it wrinkles, it’s done.
  • If not, cook it some more and keep testing until done.  If you overcook your jam, the sugar will caramelize and it won’t taste good and there’s nothing you can do. Better to undercook it, test it, then cook it some more.
  • Once it’s done cool just a bit and then add your rum.
  • Ladle the warm jam into clean jars and cover. 
  • Cool at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator where it will keep for several months.