In case you needed an excuse to bring home a big bundle of cherries from the farmers market, this simple summery jam is it. It's a sweet, deeply flavored spread, suitable for beginners and repeat jam-makers alike, that comes together on the stovetop with just three ingredients. It's bursting with cherry flavor and has a chunky, thick texture that's just right for spreading on toast. When you're pitting all those cherries, just remember this jam will be waiting at the end of the tunnel.
Thickening Jam Without Pectin
To keep things super easy, this recipe skips the pectin and requires just fresh cherries, lemon, and sugar. But just because we're leaving out this popular thickening agent doesn't mean you'll be left with a runny jar of jam. The key to stirring up a batch of quick jam with just the right consistency is time and plenty of it. There's even a simple test you can use so you'll know exactly when it's ready.
Read more: 5 Ways to Thicken Homemade Jam
A Test for Doneness
Want to be doubly sure when to pull your bubbly pot of jam off the stove? Before you start cooking, place a saucer or small plate in the freezer. The jam will thicken as it cools, so this test chills it down quickly to see how well it sets.
After simmering the fruit for about 20 minutes, add a small spoonful of jam to the saucer, then return it to the freezer for another couple minutes. When it's cooked just right, the jam should wrinkle a little bit when nudged with your finger. If it doesn't, cook for another five minutes and try again.
When's all said and done, you can keep this jam in the fridge for up to three weeks, or in the freezer for up to six months.
Quick Cherry Jam
2 pounds sweet cherries, pitted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place the cherries in the bowl of a food processor or blender, and pulse at 3-second bursts several times to partially chop the cherries. Most of the cherries will be broken down, although some will stay whole. Be sure not to purée the cherries.
Place a saucer or small plate in the freezer. This will be used to test the jam consistency later.
Combine the cherries, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt in a large, nonreactive saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is slightly thickened and looks like it's beginning to gel, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
The jam will be loose but should coat the back of a spoon. It will thicken more as it sets. To test for doneness, add a small spoonful of jam to the plate that was placed in the freezer, then return it to the freezer for about 2 minutes. Remove the plate and gently nudge the jam with a spoon or your finger. If it wrinkles, it's done. If not, cook the jam for another 5 minutes and repeat.
Transfer the jam to a glass jar and cool completely. Seal and store in the refrigerator.
- Cherries: Frozen cherries can be substituted for fresh.
- Storage: Store the jam in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months.