Cherry season is one of our favorites, but it never seems to be around long enough! It seems that every year, we’re scurrying to get and create something special with these delightful little fruits!
We’re very blessed to live in an area with several wonderful orchards including some that offer the “Pick Your Own” opportunity! I have fond memories of going to Cherry Hill Orchards with my mother and siblings 30 years ago and love sharing that with my own children.
I haven’t done comparison pricing for cherries in other regions, but in our area, the pick your own price is usually close to ½ of what you’d pay at market. So if you have the opportunity to pick, it’s usually worth your time! Plus, you can put those fruit bins you’ve been squirreling away to use again!
We decided to make a double batch of sweet cherry vanilla jam with our freshly picked goodies. However, we’ve heard cherries make a great kombucha. Phickle has a recipe for sweet cherry kombucha and a giveaway of our 32oz Amber Growlettes and a Stainless Steel Funnel on her blog.
I knew that we’d be on a tight schedule to get these cherries into the jam kettle, so when we picked them, we didn’t keep the stems. This will also cut down on your weight when paying….why pay for stems? However, if you will not be able to get to your cherries quickly, I’d recommend picking them with their stems as it helps to last a little longer after being removed from the tree. The light ones will start to show visible browning around that broken flesh very shortly after picking, but any stemmed cherry will spoil more quickly.
We rinsed our cherries in cold water, removed any imperfect cherries and promptly drained them.
My faithful little helpers took care of pitting the cherries with our nifty Push Button Cherry Pitter. They had fun seeing who was filling their mason jar the quickest! If you haven’t used one of these pitters, you’ll want to check out our video.
While the cherries were being pitted, I mixed up my calcium water according to the Pomona’s Pectin pamphlet (1 teaspoon calcium powder into 1 cup water in a jar). I got my water going in my canners and gathered my jars and lids. Because of the plentiful cherries, I decided to do a double batch. Half the batch went into a variety of 8oz mason jars and the other half in 9oz Hexagon lug jars.
Because the recipe calls for Pomona’s Pectin, doubling is allowed! As is an adjustment of sugar! Please note, though…sugar does play a role in lowering water activity in preserved products and helps to prolong the shelf life.
Double Sweet Cherry Vanilla Jam
18 cups pitted sweet cherries (we mixed the light sweet and the dark – figured we’d get a lighter more red color)
4 lemons – zested & juiced
6 teaspoons calcium water
4 cups sugar
6 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin
1 – 2 vanilla beans
- Prepare a boiling water bath (or 2) and 16 half pint jars. (I used 8 half pint and 8 of the 9oz hex).
- In a large jam kettle, combine your pitted cherries, lemon zest & juice, calcium water, and about ½ cup – ¾ cup water. Cover and bring to a gentle boil and allow the fruits to soften and release their juices. Stir frequently to avoid scorching…more likely to happen with larger batch.
- Slice open your vanilla bean(s) and scrape out the contents and add to the fruit. You can throw the remaining bean in as well, but remember to take it out before blending.
- In a bowl, mix the sugar & pectin with a wisk.
- When the fruit has softened, use a potato smasher to gently break up the fruits. I like being able to recognize the chunks of fruit, so I didn’t go wild…just enough mashing to ensure softness and to locate and remove the lemon seed and a few cherry seeds that managed to get into the kettle. If you prefer a less chunky jam, you may chop more or give it a good zip with your immersion blender.
- When your fruit is to the consistency you desire, add the sugar and pectin mixture and stir well to combine.
- Bring the fruit to a boil and allow it to boil vigorously for another 4 – 6 minutes until the jam begins to thicken.
- When the jam has reached a good consistency, remove it from the heat.
- Scoop & funnel jam into your prepared jars, clean the rims and apply the lids, being careful not to over-tighten.
- Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
- At the conclusion of the 10 minutes, remove the jars from the canner and place them on layered kitchen towels to cool.
- After jars have sealed and cooled, remove rings from the 2-piece and label them all. If any of your jars didn’t seal, put it in the refrigerator and enjoy it in season!We used a variety of jar types for this batch of jam! While the straighter sides of the 8oz Straight Sided jam jars make it easy to get every last morsel of goodness out, we think the sleek Hex Jam Jars make for an extra special presentation! Both the single-piece regular mouth plastisol lids and the lug lids operate in similar fashion to the 2-piece lids. Marisa of Food in Jars has tried them on several occasions and shares how to use them in this post.