Friday, January 14, 2011


Many people are intimidated by making and canning jam, but it appeals to my methodical side. To me, the only difficult part is obtaining fruit in large quantities without breaking the bank. (Sure, you can do small batches, but canning involves such rigorous prep that it’s just as easy to make a lot as to make a little, and I don’t find it worth hauling out the canner for just a jar or two.) Of course, I’m lucky enough to live in California, an agricultural wonderland with year-round farmers’ markets featuring abundant fruits, but even so, it’s not always easy to venture beyond apples, pears, and strawberries as jam fodder. Other berries are scarce and expensive unless you pick them yourself, plus I didn’t invest in a canner of my own all summer, so the wealth of stone fruits passed me by (I managed to squeeze in some peach jam at the very end of the season, at least). I’ve loved cherry jam ever since I tried it at a bed-and-breakfast in Lawrence, Kansas, a few summers ago, but given that California is hardly cherry country (not to mention that I refuse to invest in a cherry pitter), I thought homemade cherry jam was out of reach for me—until I stumbled across this recipe at, of all places, the Kraft website (Kraft makes Sure-Jell pectin, so it has a decent stash of safe and reliable canning recipes). Yup, it turns out you can use frozen cherries to make jam. I’d never really even considered the existence of frozen cherries before, but sure enough, there they were at my supermarket, on sale and everything. They weren’t super-cheap, mind you—$3 per 1-pound bag, I think, and I had to buy three bags)—but cheaper than three pounds of fresh cherries would have been at the farmers’ market, and available in December for my holiday-gift canning purposes.

I was a little worried about how the frozen fruit would compare to fresh (it does have a subtle but distinctively different flavor, I think), but the added incentive of almond flavor (and boozy almond flavor, at that) won me over. Almond is one of my favorite flavors and such a natural complement to cherry. The resulting jam is delicious, pleasantly but not overpoweringly almondy, a bit on the sweet side but otherwise irresistible and a unique addition to my jam repertoire. I’m not sure I would have noticed it was made with frozen fruit if I didn’t already know. I’ll definitely be making this again.

2¼ pounds (36 ounces) frozen sweet cherries, thawed and drained
¼ cup amaretto or other almond-flavored liqueur (you may substitute ¼ teaspoon almond extract, but add it at the end of Step 4 instead of in Step 3)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 box fruit pectin
½ teaspoon butter or margarine (optional)
4½ cups sugar

1. Prepare jars and closures as in steps 1–2 here.

2. Measure sugar into a bowl and set aside.

3. Finely chop or grind cherries (I pulsed them with my immersion blender) and place in a 6- or 8-quart pot. Add amaretto and lemon juice and mix well.

4. Stir pectin into prepared fruit mixture in pot. If desired, add butter or margarine to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to a full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon.

5. Fill jars to within ⅛ inch of tops and process for 10 minutes, as in steps 7–9 here.

Yield: About 14 4-ounce jars
Time: 2½ hours
Leftover potential: Jars will keep on the shelf for up to 1 year; open jars will last indefinitely in the refrigerator.

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