Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sour Cherry Freezer Jam

The sour cherries are truly amazing this year. 

So are the black walnuts which are now making it quite dangerous to lounge on our deck unless huddled under the umbrella... yelp!

We have a North Star cherry tree. This tree was developed by the University of Minnesota in 1950 so it likes our weather just fine -- especially this year's early spring and extra rain. North Star cherry trees are very hardy, fast growing, and they short enough that people can reach most of the fruit. 

Susan's folks had a sour cherry tree when she was little. She remembers her mom's freezer jam as tastier and zippier than anything you could get in the store. So she decided to give it a try. 

Finding a recipe for sour cherry freezer jam online proved perplexing. Mostly because the majority of freezer jam recipes are generic and meant for any berry --including the one the back of the pectin envelope. It seemed likely that sour cherries would require a different amount of sugar than say... strawberries. And the recipes varied from 4 cups fruit with 1-1/2 cups sugar to 1-1/2 cups fruit with 4 cups sugar. 

Also, cherries are juicier than berries -- and sour cherries are juicier than bing cherries. A lot of the recipes called for lemon juice. That seemed silly for sour cherries. But still, Susan wondered about the amount of pectin. She worried about altering recipes the first time out. Finally, she decided to just go for it. If the batch was too runny, it would taste awesome on yogurt or ice cream.

Sour cherries are usually ripe around the 4th of July in Minnesota. Obviously, they are pretty early this year as Susan baked up a tasty batch of Sour Cherry Almond Scones for Fathers' Day. She spent the next week eyeing the cherry tree... trying to decide when that sweet spot would occur between having perfectly ripe fruit and completely stripped boughs -- the fruit gobbled up by birds (and me.. heh heh heh). It wasn't a coincidence that an unscheduled Sunday was the decider. 

First, Susan needed a cherry pitter. Having fingers and thumbs, she could easily pop out the pits the old fashioned way. And she did that for the single cup of cherries needed for the scones. But four cups of cherries is beyond her attention span. Unless it meant there was a reason to buy a new toy... 

Oxo Good Grips Cherry PitterI always enjoy a walk to Ace Hardware so I came along with her and Boy #1. Our Ace  allows dogs and, even better, the clerks feed me biscuits -- the BIG ONES.

Susan was delighted to find Oxo makes a cherry pitter -- as Oxo designers seem to have re-designed just about every kitchen tool so that they actually work and for a fair price. 

Here is what four cups of cherries look like before they are pitted. Everyone says they are a beautiful red. They look Kong® gray to me! But they are plump and juicy...

Sour Cherry Freezer Jam
Susan included all the juice from pitting when she made the recipe below. She frowned at the pectin envelope which gave no guidance about juicy, sour cherries. She went ahead and increased the sugar by a cup from the 1-1/2 cups they recommended. It tastes very zippy but is looking reluctant to gel. Afterwards, she read enough to learn you don't mess with the proportions. But the great thing is: even if it doesn't set to a spreadable jam, it will be fabulous on yogurt or ice cream!

4 cups cherries
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 package Ball® No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin

Ball No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin
Pick, wash, dry, and pit enough cherries to end up with 4 cups after chopping. In large mixing bowl, macerate (chop) cherries, leaving hunks of fruit of desired size. A hand blender works well in short bursts -- be careful not to puree. 

Mix together sugar and pectin, add to cherries and stir for three minutes. 

Spoon into clean, dry freezer-safe jars (no curved shoulders) or plastic containers leaving room at the top for expansion when freezing (1/2 to 1 inch). Makes about 48 ounces. 

Let sit for thirty minutes. Freeze or refrigerate. 

Sour Cherry Freezer Jam in twelve 

Resources about freezer jam
Freezer Jam: A Baby Step to Canning by NPR's Stephanie Stiavetti

Kraft's Sure-Jell How to Make Freezer Jam which includes a chart about different fruits and sugar needs. But it does recommend 2 cups cherries to 4 cups sugar (which is about opposite of what Susan likes).

Ball's's Soft Spread's Problem Solver

1 comment:

  1. What about the calcium water? When I made strawberry freezer jam I hade to put the pectin in hot water and add to strawberries and then mix the calcium water an add as I stir.