We are not a toast and jam household. Every year or two, though, we buy the nice butter and become toast and jam people for a few days and wonder why we don’t belong to that tribe year round. Michael and I too easily fall into our cold and hot cereal routines (respectively), forgetting the pleasure of barely crispy bread, melting salty butter, slatherings of preserves, and an extra pinch of sea salt for good luck.
This Balsamic Cherry Jam might keep me more interested in varying my morning routine, though it’ll no doubt find its way to our table in other ways, too. It would make a lovely appetizer with goat cheese or blue cheese or just about any cheese on baguette slices, it’ll make a stellar PB&J, and I might just stir it into my oatmeal in the morning.
Cherry jam is good. That’s a fact. But, plain cherry jam seems overly sweet and one-dimensional. This recipe uses the balsamic vinegar to heighten the cherry flavor without masking it–the vinegar remains firmly buckled in the back seat, so the jam is definitely in the sweet category but can be friends with savory ingredients as well.
Note: I can jams and jellies every year, but I can never seem to remember all of the pectin rules of thumb. I like to use pectin to guarantee that my preserves will set, even though I know many people do without or have other methods. This is just the way I do it. Feel free to do what you want, but be sure to follow canning guidelines (USDA has good ones) so you don’t botulize yourself and your loved ones (yes, I just made up the word botulize).
Balsamic Cherry Jam (based on the Ball canning instructions)
Yield: about 8 jars, 8 oz each (yes, you can halve the recipe)
5-1/3 cups stemmed, pitted, and chopped sweet cherries (I used Bing, but I’m sure other varieties would be nice)
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
6 Tablespoons pectin
6-2/3 cups sugar
A few grinds of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Prepare your water bath canner, sterilize your jars, and heat up your lids according to canning guidelines (either from the pectin container, the canner manufacturer, or the USDA). Here are my quick instructions for prepping:
- Put the metal canner thingy in the bottom of your giant water bath canner. Put your empty jars in the canner and fill it with water abut 2″ above the height of the jars. With the lid on, bring the whole thing to a boil for 10 minutes to sterilize the jars. Set a clean towel (folded in half because that’s the way my mom does it) on the counter. Remove the jars (dumping out the water into the canner) with jar-clamping tongs and set them gently on the towel.
- Meanwhile, put the lids (not the rings) in a small saucepan and heat them barely to a simmer, then turn off the heat. If you boil them, you might ruin the seals. Leave the lids in the water until you’re ready to use them, then remove them one at a time with tongs.
Combine the cherries and lemon juice in a large saucepan and gradually stir in the pectin. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar, pepper, salt, and balsamic, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Return the mixture to a rolling boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and skim the foam off the top (and put it in a little dish for you to enjoy later).
Ladle the hot jam into your prepared jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth, apply the lids, then screw on the rings finger-tight. Using the jar-clamping tongs, set the filled jars in the water bath canner, making sure the water is about 2″ above the level of the jars, and put the lid on the canner. Bring the canner to a boil for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let stand for 5 minutes.
Remove the jars with the jar-clamping tongs and set them on the folded towel, leaving a little space between the jars. Make sure your towel is in a location where you won’t mind leaving the jars, because you want to let them sit overnight to cool without disturbing them.
The next day, check to see if your lids sealed. The button in the middle shouldn’t flex up and down, and they should all have the same dull sound when you tap them with a fingernail. If any of your jars don’t seal, put them in the fridge for sooner consumption. Store the sealed jars for up to a year in a spot where they won’t get much sunlight.