Capture the delicious taste of fresh cherries and enjoy it all year long! This Sweet Cherry Freezer Jam is super easy, and there are no canning skills needed! It will even transform the humble PB&J to an epicurean delight!
Every year, when the cherry season comes around, I find myself eating my weight in this delicious, crimson fruit. The season is so fleeting, I want to fully savor it. I love to make cobblers, ice cream, sorbets, pies, cakes, focaccia (delicious!) and... Sweet Cherry Freezer Jam!
If you're in the grocery store and you see something like this...
...stop dead in your tracks and fill up a BIG bag of these fabulous red jewels. By next week, they'll probably be much more expensive! It's cherry time right now, and the local markets have displays piled high - but it won't last long.
It dawned on me one day, while I was nibbling on a handful of perfectly ripe cherries, that I could capture the delicious, summery flavor and enjoy it all through the year by making cherry freezer jam!
What's the difference between freezer jam and traditional cooked jam?
- Freezer jam isn't (or is barely) cooked and comes together very quickly. Traditional jam takes longer to make, as there is cooking time involved.
- Freezer jam is stored in the freezer in lieu of canning.
- Freezer jam uses less sugar than conventional cooked jam, as it's not needed as a preservative, just as a sweetener.
- You can use any kind of container for storage instead of the glass jars that are necessary for conventional jam.
I'm a huge fan of freezer jam because it's a wonderful way to preserve the delicious flavors of summer fruit without the fuss, heat, equipment, and time that canned jams require. And because it's barely cooked, it retains the beautiful color of the fresh fruit. If you compare the a batch of freezer jam and traditional jam made with the same variety of fruit, you'll be shocked at the vibrant hue of the freezer jam vs. the cooked jam!
A little kitchen workhorse
When working with cherries, it does help immensely to have a cherry pitter. I picked up this one by OXO several years ago, and honestly, it's worth it's weight in gold. I pitted all the cherries for this jam in less than 5 minutes.
After removing the small pits, I gave them just a few pulses in the food processor, but a knife or a chopper would work as well. Just make sure not to pulse or chop them too fine. You want nice bits of fruit in the finished jam.
A problem with freezer jam
One last thing about freezer jam. One of the main drawbacks to freezer jam is that, because it’s not cooked, it can be difficult to completely dissolve the sugar which gives the jam a “grainy/sugary” texture. With a bit of trial and error, I figured out that a short stint in the microwave will totally eliminate the problem, and yet the flavor is still fresh and the jam retains it's beautiful hue.
So, go ahead, take 30 minutes today for a delicious summer taste sensation you can enjoy all year long! You'll be thanking yourself when the cold winds blow and your having this wonderful jam on toast, biscuits, bagels, hard rolls, yogurt...
Café Tips for making this Sweet Cherry Freezer Jam
- Pectin, a thickening agent is necessary for making freezer jam. Most fruits actually contain some of their own pectin, but not enough to give a good consistency. Pectin can be purchased either in powder or liquid form. In this Sweet Cherry Freezer Jam, I used the powdered version. Pectin can be quite expensive but, with experimentation, I learned that generic versions work as well as the big name brands and are usually much less expensive. Although this recipe calls for Sure-Jell, I have also had great results with the Kroger brand, as well as other generic pectins.
- Don't substitute one type of pectin for the other. The powdered and liquid versions call for different proportions of sugar and fruit.
- Even if you’ve never made jam before and don’t feel like one of those old-fashioned super cooks, I promise, you can do this! You really can; and your family/friends will be quite thrilled with you. A pat on the back just might be in order too!
- If you don’t have a ton of freezer space, freezer jam can be prepared and poured into quart-size ziplock bags. Squeeze out the air, seal the bags and stack them flat in the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, just thaw then empty the contents of the bag into a jam/jelly jar.
- If you buy new jars for making jam, save the box that the jars are packaged in. It's a perfect, compact place to store your jam in the freezer and you don't end up with jars going missing in the freezer.
- How to pit cherries? Use a cherry pitter! It will make the job so... much easier! I find that the best place to do it is right in my kitchen sink. Put two bowls in the sink, one for the stones and one for the pitted cherries. There will be a little splatter with each cherry and it will be confined to the sink.
- There are lots of recipes in which you can be a little sloppy when measuring ingredients and still have success. I'm the queen of that! DON'T do it with jam! Jam is an exact science. Measure very carefully and level your measuring cups at the top. Don't skimp or overdo the amount of any of the ingredients called for.
- 1½-2 pounds fully ripe red sweet cherries you'll need 2 cups pitted and chopped cherries
- 4¼ cups sugar measured into separate bowl
- ¾ cup water
- 1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin (1.75-ounces) see notes above in post
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Start with clean dry plastic containers or glass jars.
Stem and pit cherries. I love using this cherry pitter. Coarsely chop fruit with a sharp knife or chopper. You can also give a few pulses in the food processor - not too many though, you want chunks of fruit in your jam. Measure exactly 2 cups of cherries into large microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the sugar. Let stand 10 min., stirring occasionally.
Place bowl in microwave and cook on high power for 3 minutes. Remove and stir. Most of the sugar should be dissolved. Taste the jam. If it still has a grainy texture, return to microwave for another minute or two.
Combine water and pectin in small saucepan and stir till pectin is dissolved. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add to fruit mixture along with the lemon juice and stir 3 full minutes.
Fill prepared containers immediately to within ½ inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers and cover with lids right away. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze extra containers up to one year. Thaw in refrigerator before using.
This recipe makes 5 cups of jam.