If you find yourself wondering what to do with so many cherries before their short-lived season is over, jam is the perfect answer – it lets you extend cherry season! Mike and I generally don’t eat a lot of jam, so the 3 cups that I made with this recipe will probably last us at least 6 months in the fridge. If you prefer, you can make a bigger batch and preserve the jam through canning.
Instead of using a box of store-bought pectin to gel my jam I wanted to make (or rather, extract) pectin from scratch for a couple reasons. I had heard that it’s a fairly easy process and I really like the idea of taking something in its pure form and fully utilizing it. Plus I didn’t want to make an entire batch of jam, which I would have had to do if I bought a box of pectin (it’s only Mike and I eating it and I don’t have canning equipment to preserve it). In the end making pectin from scratch was the perfect answer.
I found a wonderful article by Sam Thayer describing how to make your own apple pectin in detail. The process is fairly easy, in fact, it’s actually very similar to making applesauce. Just be forewarned that the pectin liquid has to strain out overnight, so plan your time accordingly if you want to make this.
The jam is absolutely delicious…if you’re finding it hard to say goodbye to cherry season I highly recommend making it!
(Yield: About 3 c)
1 1/2 lb (about 5 medium or 6 small apples, or 6 c quartered apples) tart or under-ripe apples (I used Granny Smith apples)
1 c pomegranate juice (I used POM Wonderful)
3 c pitted and quartered cherries (heaping 3 c whole cherries) (I used sweet dark cherries but I think it would be even better with sour cherries)
2 c sugar
1 TB lemon juice
Heavy-bottomed 3-quart pot with a lid
Sterilized lidded jars
Wash and quarter the apples (leave the skin on and the core intact). In a 3-quart pot with a lid over low heat, cook the quartered apples (including the skins and cores), pomegranate juice, and 1 c water (covered) for 2 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes. (The apple/pomegranate/water mixture will have the consistency of watery applesauce when it’s done cooking.)
Line a sieve with 4 layers of cheesecloth and place the sieve over a bowl to catch the apple pectin liquid that drips out. Pour the applesauce mixture into the cheesecloth and let it drain overnight. Do not squeeze or press the liquid out, since this will cause it to have more of the under-ripe apple flavor. You should get about 1 c of apple pectin liquid; it will be a rosy color because of the pomegranate juice.
In a 3-quart pot with a lid over low heat, cook the apple pectin liquid and the cherries (covered) for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the heat off and stir in the sugar and lemon juice.
Attach a candy thermometer to the pot so you can read the temperature of the jam. Turn the heat on low and cook until it reaches 220F, stirring very frequently (this took me about 35-40 minutes, but I think the time will probably vary a little based on heat and humidity). You can manually test whether the jam has cooked long enough to gel through 2 methods: (1) dip a wooden spoon into the jam and hold it sideways over the pot; the last jam to drip off should hang off the spoon in a bulging drop but not fall; or (2) freeze a plate, put a little jam onto the frozen plate, and put it back into the freeze for a few minutes; the jam should gel.
Once the temperature reaches 220F, cook another 5 minutes, stirring constantly (the temperature might climb a little, to about 224F), then turn off the heat and transfer to sterilized jars. Leave it sit without jostling it (so it can gel) while it cools to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator or if you make a bigger batch you can preserve it through the canning process.
One way to tell whether the jam has cooked long enough is to dip a wooden spoon into it and hold the spoon sideways over the pot; if the last jam to drip off hangs off the spoon in a bulging drop but doesn’t fall, the jam is ready.