Preparing Cherry jam
- 1kg/2lb 4oz cherries
- 1 lemon, juice only (about 50ml/2fl oz)
- pinch sea salt
- 700g/1lb 9oz jam sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- few drops of cooking oil (if needed)
Rinse the cherries, then remove the stalks and stones. If you don’t have a cherry stoner then simply slit the cherries on one side and flick the stone out — best to do this over a bowl to catch the juice. Take 20 or so of the stones and place them on a square of muslin. Give them a whack with a rolling pin to crack them. Bring the corners of the muslin together to form a bag and secure with string or a food clip.
Put the cherries in a large heavy-based pan or preserving pan with the lemon juice, the bag of cherry stones and 150ml/¼ pint water. Bring to simmering point over a very low heat, then simmer for 4–5 minutes. Add the salt and sugar, a third at a time, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Tip the mixture into a bowl. Cover the surface with a circle of baking paper and leave overnight in a cool place. This stage will allow the cherries to absorb the sugar syrup, helping to distribute them evenly throughout the jam.
Return the cherry mixture to the pan and bring to a steady boil for 8–9 minutes until the jam reaches setting point. You’ll know when the jam is nearly ready because the loose, light coloured bubbles on the surface will have all but disappeared, the jam will thicken and the boil will be slower. Remove the pan from the heat — otherwise the jam will continue to cook – and drop a little of the hot jam onto a cold plate or stainless steel spoon. Leave to cool for a few minutes, or pop it in the fridge, then lightly push your finger through to see if it forms a light gel that holds its shape and doesn’t just pool away. It should not be at all sticky. If the mixture remains runny, return the pan to the heat for a couple more minutes, then test again.
Remove from the heat and gently stir in the vanilla extract, if using. Keep stirring in the same direction to disperse any foam, adding a drop or two of oil if it doesn’t disperse.
Tip the jam into a wide-necked jug with a good pouring lip, then fill warm, sterilised jars to the brim and immediately seal with screwtop lids.
Store in a cool, dark, dry place for up to a year. Once opened keep in the fridge and use within 4 weeks.
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