This is one of our favourite jams and it taste just like cherry pie filling! I make it with sour red cherries. These are the only kind that grow up here but they also have a different (better for jam) flavour than the black sweet cherries we grew in the Okanagan. It's almost a different fruit.
This jam is made with a little almond extract added. The Almond gives the cherries a great flavour boost and is often added to commercial cherry pies. We love it! Almond is one of my personal favourite flavours and gets added to a lot of things. It really goes well with cherry. I have had a lot of compliments when serving this jam.
The first thing I do is pit the cherries. You can do this with a cherry pitter but I prefer to just use my hands. I discovered this quick and easy method when we made dozens and dozens of jars of cherry jam for sale in the orchard store in years past. Using a pitter is just not feasible for more than a few cups of cherries.
I freeze the cherries first. It is necessary to make them soft enough to push the pits out. It also helps break down the cell walls to release the juice. I learned that when making wine years ago. It works for other fruits as well, especially dry things like rhubarb.
Thaw the cherries in a very large bowl until completely soft; then, using clean hands, squish the cherries with your fingers and push each pit out into your hand as you work your fingers through them. If you can get past burying your hands in the juice and cherries, this can be fun. Collect the pits in one hand while pushing them out with the other. Drop them as you work into a small bowl at the side. This will stain your fingers red or purple for a day or so but when you tell people you have been making cherry jam, it suddenly becomes more exciting. Don't promise samples to too many people. This jam is amazing and you won't want to give it all away. You can also buy cherry pitters that do many cherries at one time, but I find them expensive and the work is slower and more tedious.
When the cherries are all pitted, I run a hand blender through them until they are all finely chopped. I have also, on occasion, squeezed out the pulp as dry as I could get it with my hands, placed it on a cutting board and chopped it, when I didn't have a blender. That works too, but the blended jams are smoother. I blend most of the jams I make. We just like the smooth jams better, personally, than ones with chunky fruit pieces in them. You can always make both kinds and label them "smooth" or "chunky", like peanut butter. We made and sold a lot of jams in our store in the orchard and most people preferred the smooth ones.
4 cups chopped, pitted cherries in juice
4 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 small box powdered pectin (Certo)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not multiply this recipe. It will not gel unless you make it one recipe with 4 cups of cherries at a time.
Put the 4 cups of cherries in a pot with a lot of room at the top and put on the stove at medium heat. Stir often to keep the cherries from scorching on the bottom. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of pure almond extract and one small box of pectin powder. DO NOT add the sugar at this stage. Stir and blend well (I use a whisk for this). I use generic, no name pectin most often. I have used Certo and Family Value. They all work the same if making full sugar jam. Just make sure you follow the directions closely. DO NOT add the sugar too soon with the pectin. If you do, it won't gel properly.
Bring the cherries, stirring constantly, with lemon juice, almond extract and pectin to a full rolling boil that won't be stirred down. Boil hard for just over one minute. Turn off heat. Slowly add 4 1/2 cups of sugar, stirring well. Turn medium heat back on and continue to stir as it comes to a boil. Bring it to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down again. Let it boil for just over one minute a second time, stirring constantly and watching it closely so it doesn't boil over. If it reaches for the top of the pot, lift it quickly off the heat for a few seconds. Then return it to continue boiling. You may have to do that a few times as it boils. WATCH IT CLOSELY! Jam in the burners and all over the stove is a very sticky and sugary mess to clean up. It's also a waste of fabulous jam!
Pour into sterile, hot jam/canning jars. Top with sterile seals and rings. Boil in a water bath for a full 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Remove rings before storing.
NOTE: I use bleach water to sterilize everything, i.e. jars, seals, rings, spoons, strainers, funnels, lifters. I slid into making jams and jellies from years of making my own organic wines, so aseptic techniques are a habit for me. I sterilize everything used for canning anything and for making things with yeast or bacteria culture, such as yogurt, buttermilk or soft cheese. Bleach works well if thoroughly rinsed. If you don't rinse it well enough, it will kill the yeast and/or bacteria you are trying to grow. Not as necessary in jam making, however. Still...rinse well. You don't want jams that taste like bleach either.
In the water bath, make sure you have at least 2" of water over the jars to get a good seal. Less water and you might have some jars that don't seal. Listen for the pop and make sure every lid is conclave to be sure it is sealed. They should all seal within a minute or two after removing from the water bath. Store in a dark, cool, dry place that doesn't freeze. Refrigerate after opening. Keeps for at least a year when properly sealed and stored.
If you make cherry jam that doesn't gel, just call it "syrup". Cherry syrup is fantastic on waffles, pancakes, yogurt and ice cream! Try a little in your coffee too!