Tart Cherry Jam

In the middle of June, my brother-in-law, Don, called to say we should come to pick cherries if we wanted them. He has a beautiful old cherry tree, which was absolutely loaded with sour cherries. We picked three-quarters of a 5 gallon bucket that evening, and the next morning my husband and I pitted cherries for a couple of hours. We didn’t care if they were pretty, so we simply pitted them with our thumbs. Do this outside if you can, you’ll soon learn how to keep your hands around the cherry to keep the juice out of your hair, face, off your clothes, floor, etc.
That afternoon, I made 3 batches of preserves, using this recipe. The last batch didn’t seem to jel as well right away, but after 3 or 4 days, they are nicely set up too. Delicious!! Save the foam you skim off in a microwave bowl, nuke it about 45 – 60 seconds, and let it cool. It will diminish the foam and turn back into jelly you can use right away. Use a container about 4 times the size of the foam; it boils up.
A caution: don’t double the recipe, make successive batches. You don't have to clean up much between batches, just keep going.  I keep 3 or 4 small dishes in the freezer for testing. Read your canning book on water-bath processing to refresh your memory before starting. I use a large, granite-ware “open kettle” or jelly pan for jelly, and it is much better than any stock pot for jelly and jam-making. The wide surface helps speed up the jellying process. I hang mine above the door on a nail inside my pantry so it’s handy. I place my towels for cooling on a half-sheet or large tray; then I can move the jars if I need to. Remove the rings and wash the jars carefully the next day, share and enjoy.  You can read up on basic jam making here.
Tart Cherry Preserves
3 Pounds Tart Cherries -- pitted (about 2 quarts)
1 ¼ Packages Pectin -- Sure Jel, regular (Add 1 tablespoon from the second package)
5 Cups Sugar -- 2 pounds 3 ounces
Pit and weigh out or measure the cherries. Add to open jelly kettle. Weigh sugar and set aside. Measure out pectin, 1 package and 1 tablespoon**. Mix with 1/4 cup of the sugar.
Add the pectin mixture only to the cherries. Bring to a full boil, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining sugar and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Remove from heat and test for jel point. If the jelly wrinkles after putting a teaspoonful on a dish that has been in the freezer and returned to the freezer for a minute or two, it is ready. If the jelly isn't ready, add another tablespoon of pectin powder, return to a boil and boil hard another minute.
Set the jelly off the heat and skim off the foam. Don't wait or cherries will "stick" to the foam. Then stir for 5 minutes to help prevent fruit from floating.
Pour, hot, into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe off the rim carefully. Seal with prepared lids according to manufacturers instructions.   Process 7-10 minutes in boiling water bath. Set on clean towels to cool. About 8 half-pints.
Equipment: Open kettle, boiling water bath canner with rack, 2 quart measure, large metal spoon for skimming foam, large silicone scraper and spoon, saucepan for lids, jar lifter, lid wand, tongs for jars, funnel, ladle, ruler, pan with paper towels for filling jars, clean towels.
**There are about 4 tablespoons of pectin in the Sure Jel package.
Cost 2010 with free cherries: $2.91 or 37¢ per half pint.

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