You’d think I’d be sick of them by now, but I’m just not. All this week, I’ve been giving cherries away so a lot of other folks have been able to enjoy them, which makes me happy. I still have plans for them, so keep your eyes peeled…
Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats & Bay
+ Barely, shamelessly, adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook’s recipe of the same name.
++ I easily doubled this recipe (and I probably should’ve tripled it). Makes 14 half-pint (8 ounce) jars.
+++ Having a canning kit makes this process much easier, but for this specific recipe and the method I used, a funnel is the most important tool you need.
I grew up with a Mama that could make preserves in her sleep. Fig preserves were my favorite, and even now when I go home I can eat jars of it. I do eat jars of it. There’s the figs and the salsa and the pickled okra and the beans and………….you name it, she’s soaked it in vinegar or bathed it in sugar and put it up. You’d think that skill would just pass on down, like brown eyes or freckles. Not so. For the life of me, making any kind of preserves has always made me a little nervous. Glass jars, boiling water, sharp lids. You know, all of those things can possibly kill you.
Not really. (But maybe.)
But I decided to just get over it, for the sake of the two boxes of cherries staring me in the face. And the husband staring me in the face. And the friends asking me what I was going to do with 48.6 pounds of cherries – and then staring me in the face while I figured out my response. Luckily, my Mama had so graciously gone in halvsies with me on the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, so I had a good place to start. Last year, she’d made the Early Girl Tomato Marmalade (in her sleep probably), and it was amazing. I figured I couldn’t go wrong, and I was right.
6 pounds of unpitted sweet red cherries (I used a combination of Bing and Champagne, and to be honest, I have no idea if they’re considered “sweet”)
1 1/4 pounds seeded kumquats, sliced crosswise into very thin rounds
4 pounds of cane sugar
7 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 large bay leaves
Prepare: Sterilizing the jars.
When making preserves, you’ll need to sterilize your jars and lids (unless you plan to eat it right away). There are many ways to do this, including the hot water method, the oven method or even putting them in a sterilizing dishwasher. For my jam, I chose the oven method (directions below). This was the first time I’d used this method, and I really feel like it was much easier than dealing with a huge pot of boiling water.
- First, be sure to clean your jars and lids thoroughly.
- Place the clean jars (upright) and lids on a baking sheet in a preheated 250 degree oven.
- Keep the jars and lids in the oven until you’re ready to use them, but at a minimum, they must sterilize for 30 minutes.
- See below for filling and sealing the jars.
- Place a saucer with 5 metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cherries, kumquat rounds, sugar and lemon juice, stirring well to combine. Let the mixture macerate at room temperature for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Note – I left the mixture to sit overnight without any issues.
- After you’ve completed step 2, transfer the mixture to a large preserving pan/pot (I used a large Le Crueset heavy-bottomed pot).
- Add the bay leaves.
- Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. Once the mixture begins foaming, gradually raise the heat to high, stirring often.
- Boil vigorously, gently scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the jam isn’t sticking. If it does begin to stick, lower the heat slightly, being sure the jam remains at a rapid boil.
- Continue to cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until the mixture acquires a darker, shinier look (about 15-20 minutes).
- Don’t freak out. One thing the Blue Chair Jam cookbook did not stress enough was that this jam produces a pink foam. And by pink foam, I mean it looks like a 4 year old girl dumped her bubble bath in the pot. Don’t freak out. Take a large metal spoon and scoop it out. You’ll need to do this throughout the cooking process.
- Once the mixture acquires the darker, shinier look, remove the jam from the heat and let it rest for 2 minutes.
- Return the jam back to the high heat and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Test it for doneness. This is the fun part! To test the jam, transfer a half-spoonful of jam from your pot to one of the teaspoons you placed in your freezer. Place the spoon back in the freezer (make sure it’s laying flat) and hang tight for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, carefully remove the spoon and feel the bottom. If it’s still warm, return it to the freezer for another half minute or so. Once it’s no longer warm on the bottom, tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the jam runs; if it’s runs slowly or not at all, and if it’s a gloppy consistency, you’ve got a finished jam on your hands. If it runs very quickly or appears watery, cook it for another 3-4 minutes and retest as needed.
- When the jam is ready, stir one last time to make sure the mix is evenly distributed.
Directions: Filling your jars and sealing.
- Remove your jars and lids from the oven.
- Before placing the jam in the jars, test your jars to make sure they’re not too hot. If they are, they’ll continue cooking – or even burn! – your jam. Just take a small spoonful of jam and drop it into one of your jars. If it bubbles or boils, wait a few minutes before filling.
- If you have one, use a funnel to fill your jars, leaving ¼” at the top of the jars.
- Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth.
- Put the lids on, being careful to screw them on just until they’re snug.
- Replace the jars on the baking sheet and place them back in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the oven and place them 1” apart on a cooling rack to set overnight at room temperature. It’s important not to move the jars during this time, to make sure they’re able to set evenly.
- As they cool and seal, you’ll hear a little pop. Before you store your jam, or give it away, check all of your jars to make sure they’re sealed. If it’s sealed, the lid should curve in very slightly in the middle. If any jars have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator.
Try not to eat it all in one sitting. It’s amazing. Tangy and sweet and just plain yummy. Enjoy!