February really got away from me. What happened here? One minute it’s coming up on Valentine’s day and the next, POOF, its the end of the month. I realize that it’s shorter than the other months (slacker), but two days shouldn’t throw me off so much.
But it did. And I almost missed All Four Burner’s Can It Up! for February. This month was frozen fruit. Frozen fruit? What do I have in my freezer already (thought past me at the beginning of this month)? Strawberries? How long have these been in here? How did I not notice them the last two times I’ve rotated the freezer stock? What else? Dehydrated pineapple. Ohhh, can I make jam with this? *Munch scarf nom nom nom* Not if its eaten I guess I can’t. Hmmmm….
I ended up heading to the store with the intent of starting that jam early. A single bag of frozen sweet cherries was all I ended up coming home with, without a particular plan, but a month ahead of me with which to work. Fast forward to yesterday.
My psychic choice of only getting enough fruit for a very small batch of jam paid off. It meant that this challenge (something I *really* wanted to participate in) wasn’t off the table despite the time crunch. Lately with the littlest getting older, I’ve been slotting in my preserving efforts between other things. This tiny batch was a cinch to whip up and took very little active time at all. Because of the small batch size and deciding to use 4 ounce jars, I didn’t even have to fire up the big pot. I suspect that this recipe could be easily doubled because it is so small to start with. I used 4 ounce jars, but you could use half pints without a problem. Some people might have processed this jam for only five minutes- and it probably would be fine. But I recommend a 10 minute processing time in the boiling water bath, partly because the cooking time for this jam is so short. I prefer to err on the side of caution.
A note on the pectin. Unless I’m making jelly I tend not to use commercial pectin these days. Not because there is anything wrong with it. Just because I work most often with high pectin fruits that don’t *need* it as a matter of course. Cherries are fairly low in natural pectin. Could I have passed it over? Yes, I could have cooked this down into something more like a fruit butter and relied on evaporation and time to thicken it up for me…. and ended up with a super miniature batch of jam to show for my efforts. And I considered it to. But during cooking and tasting I decided that I liked the flavor it was *right now* too much and didn’t want to over cook it.
I might try it as a cherry butter at some point in the future, but for now, I’m very happy with the final product. It’s a bright, lightly sweet and tart jam with a bit of a bite from the brandy. I got decadent and used a whole vanilla bean where I probably could have gotten away with half of one. I have no regrets. This preserve would be great with ice cream (I was going to say vanilla but I just got distracted by the idea of this on top of chocolate). It also compliments soft, smeary cheeses; try it with brie or simply with cream cheese on a toasted bagel.
Sweet Cherry Jam with Vanilla and Brandy
makes 3 – 4 ounce jars
12 oz frozen cherries
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon low/no sugar pectin
1-2 tablespoons brandy*
1) Slice open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. In a non-reactive bowl, combine vanilla bean seeds, pod, frozen cherries and sugar. Allow it to sit while the fruit thaws for about an hour, or leave up to over night in the fridge.
2) Prepare a boiling water bath canner, lids and rings.
3) Pour macerated cherries in to a wide, shallow pan. Cook at a bare simmer until any remaining sugar is dissolved and fruit is soft, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod. Gently mash the fruit until there are no large pieces left. Stir in lemon juice and bring the mixture to a boil.
4) Whisk in the powdered pectin and maintain at a boil for a minute. Turn down the heat and stir in the brandy, cooking for another 20-30 seconds and stirring constantly.
5) Remove from heat. Fill clean, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims and apply lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, starting the timer when the water returns to a boil. At the 10 minute mark, remove from heat and uncover the canner. Leave the jars in the water for another five minutes or so to prevent the jam from bubbling out before removing from the hot water to a towel or cutting board. Allow to cool and check the seals. Sealed jars can be labeled and will easily keep for a year in the pantry. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated immediately and eaten in a few weeks.
*I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons brandy for this batch, but I could see someone wanting a little bit more or less brandy flavor, so adjust accordingly. I used brandy because it was what I had on hand and it goes very well with cherry. Originally I had intended to use bourbon, but the end of the month caught up with me. Try with bourbon, scotch or even spiced rum if you desire for an equally tasty jam.