Cherries are perhaps my favorite fruit, and they make such a rich and delicious jam. Macerated with sugar, they take on an almost wine-like flavor. Rarely am I content to leave well enough alone, though, which is why I decided to use a touch of vanilla to amp up the sweetness and offset the slightly tart flavor of these gorgeous Washington bings. Truly, cherry jam is best when the fruit is a little on the tart side, though. Otherwise, it can be insipid.
Use fruit that is ripe but firm for this recipe, and you'll have no trouble getting a set. Cherries are pretty high in pectin, until they begin to overripen.
In France, the pits of cherries and other stone fruit are often cracked open, and the nut within, called the noyaux, is steeped in the jam inside a cheesecloth sachet. This imparts an almond-like flavor that is quite delicious, but it's worth noting that the flavor comes from small amounts of cyanide in the noyaux. The quantities are too small to be harmful.
- 2 pounds cherries, pitted
- 2 scant cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
- Wash, stem and pit the cherries. If desired, chop them down more finely.
- In a large nonreactive pot, combine the cherries, sugar and vanilla powder. Macerate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Put the pot over medium heat. Heat the macerated fruit, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Turn the heat to high, and cook, stirring only to prevent scorching, until the gel point is reached.