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cherry preserves with goat milk brie


She had me at you can serve them with roasted duck breast.  Cherries are still in season and despite the lack of gel factor on my last cherry jam adventure Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Classic Cherry Preserves recipe sucked me in.  Once again I found myself creating cherry carnage in the kitchen by pitting 3 pounds of sweet cherries – this time for Cherry & Black Pepper Preserves.   This recipe results in a rich preserve with a little pepper kick to spice things up.  It goes without saying – use freshly ground pepper to really make this preserve pop.   

coffee grinder makes quick work of peppercorns when large quantities are needed


Sheri Brooks Vinton’s book, Put ’em Up, has some great preserving recipes and tips.  I had been using freshly squeezed lemon juice in my recipes – but Sheri says no – use bottled.  The reason – lemons vary in acidity, who knew.  By using bottled lemon juice you get the same level of acidity every time.  Acid is important in preserving to limit bacteria grow and to help with gel set – so consistency is good.   

basic components of a classic jam – fruit, sugar and lemon juice

She is also a proponent of the classic or long cook method of jam making that doesn’t use additional pectin to reach gel set.  A longer cooking time results in a richer jam compared to quick cook methods that use added pectin.  Of course sometimes a little added pectin can assist a classic.  Learning my lesson from the last cherry jam experience – I checked gel set after the alloted boiling time.  Not quite set – boiled a little longer – still not set – and a little bit longer – still not quite set.  So what is a starting to get impatient girl to do – add a little pectin.  I added about a 1/4 of a package of powdered pectin – boiled for a minute and voila – gel set.  Whew!   

Cherry & Black Cherry Preserves Recipe from Sherry Brooks Vinton’s Put ’em Up   

Makes approximately three 1/2 pints   

3 pounds cherries – stemmed and pitted   

1 cup sugar   

1/4 cup bottled lemon juice   

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper   

additional pectin (if needed)   

Place cherries and a splash of water in a non-reactive pot – heat over medium heat stirring and smashing fruit until mixture boils.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved, then the lemon juice and pepper.  Continue cooking and stirring until gel set is reached (20+ minutes).  If necessary you can add sprinkle of additional pectin if jam is not setting.  Once set turn heat off and let rest, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Ladle into prepared 1/2 pint jars – releasing any trapped air.  Leave approximately 1/4 inch head space.  Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  


Gorgeous red goodness - heaven

 July is the peak of cherry season in Portland, when you have a choice of several local varieties.  Our local markets are currently brimming with cherries that have not had to make a 1500 mile trek from warmer climates – heaven as far as I am concerned.  Once I finished eating just shy of my body weight in cherries, it was time for a cherry jam experiment. The inception of this experiment was a winemaker’s dinner at the now defunct Fife restaurant, where chef Marco Shaw served an amazing cherry reduction sauce alongside roast pork.  Since that dinner I have dreamt of recreating his cherry sauce, and given my new addiction to jam making – I thought what the heck let’s try it in jam form.   In my quest I adapted the Bing Cherry Jam recipe out of Ball’s Blue Book – replacing the almond liqueur with port and adding additional cloves in lieu of the cinnamon.    

Cherry-Port jauce on homemade yogurt


The result was tasty – but not really a jam (maybe I should call it a “jauce” as it is a little thicker than your average sauce).  The cherry-port jam experiment just goes to show that jam failures can still be quite good- so I am going to declare success – just not one that stays on toast very well.    

Cherry carnage


Cherry pitter with shield


Couple of notes on making cherry jam (or anything that calls for pitted cherries).  First – buy a cherry pitter with a shield, while still time-consuming it is much faster than pitting by hand.  Second – don’t rely solely on the shield, wear something dark and cover your workspace with a towel.  Third – expect your workspace to look like you have been slaughtering animals when you are done – pitting cherries is messy business.      

Recipe (makes 6 – half pints of jam/sauce)     

1 quart pitted chopped sweet cherries     

1 teaspoon freshly ground cloves     

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice     

1/4 cup port     

1 package powdered pectin     

4 1/2 cups sugar    

Mix all ingredients except sugar in a non-reactive pot over med-high heat until mixture reaches a rolling boil (one that cannot be stirred down).  Add sugar and return to rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Ladle into 1/2 pint jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process for 10 minutes in boiling water canner.

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