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A cherry jam recipe is a must in every kitchen and my low sugar no pectin cherry jam recipe is the way jam should be. High on flavor instead of bucket fulls of sugar. This jam comes together easily so you can enjoy the bright taste of cherries all year long.
I prefer a sweet cherry jam recipe and my favorite sweet cherry is Bing. They provide that deep red color naturally.
But you can use any sweet cherry, I’ve used Rainier cherries too. Rainier cherries are a cross between a Van and a Bing cherry.
Yes, cherries freeze quite well and can be used to make both jam, jelly, and cherry pie filling. Make sure you thaw frozen cherries fully before proceeding with the recipe. I will often freeze cherries and berries to make jam later in the fall when I have more time (and a cooler kitchen).
Harvest Note: Whenever you pick cherries, be sure to leave the stem on, until just ready to use. Once you remove the stem, you allow oxygen into the cherry and it will turn brown and break down faster.
Classic Zester- this little beauty makes getting that pectin luscious lemon zest into your strawberry jam without the bitter pith so easy.
Stainless Steel Canner– (Safe for glass top stoves) this water bath canner won’t rust like the granite wear runs and will be your trusty sidekick in the kitchen for years to come.
Candy thermometer – most accurate way to ensure jam has reached the gelling point
Progressive International GPC-5000 Cherry-It Multiple Cherry Pitter this makes things go much quicker and is so worth it.
The Pampered Chef Cutting Edge Food Chopper because chopping up fruit is not where I want to spend my time and I’m all about making quick work when possible.
This is a sweet cherry jam recipe, but if you have tart cherries, simply increase the amount of sugar.
Update: I’ve increased the processing time to reach a gel as a few people have had to use a longer time to get a gel. I’ve always reached a gel with a shorter time but I am using sweet cherries, not tart or pie cherries. I recommend testing for the gel point at the 15-minute mark and only continuing to cook if it’s not gelled yet.
Pectin is naturally found in fruits, but not all fruits have the same level of pectin. Apples, grapes, currants, and citrus are naturally high in pectin and can be paired with lower pectin level fruits like cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
Pectin works with sugar (the natural sugars in fruit and added sugar) and acid to create a gel when it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
Commercial pectin is almost always made from GMO derived ingredients and is an added cost, so many jam makers want to learn how to make homemade jam without store-bought pectin. It does require you to cook the jam longer to reach the telling point, but you can use less sugar than most commercial recipes and pair together acidic fruits to create delicious jams and jellies, like the low sugar cherry jam recipe below (I’ve also included an alternative sweet cherry jam recipe using the ONLY commercial pectin I will use).
Jam is done when it’s reached the gelling point, nice and thick for spreading on toast, biscuits, sandwiches, or anything else your taste buds desire. I highly recommend using your jam in my homemade pop tarts recipe!
The easiest way to tell if a jam is set is when it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit using a candy thermometer.
Don’t despair if you don’t have a candy thermometer, there are several old-fashioned tests to see if your jam is set that work just fine.
Because jam will set more as it cools, it can be difficult to tell while it’s still cooking if it has reached the telling point. An easy fix is to use a sheet test. Place a metal spoon in the freezer when you begin making your jam.
To perform the sheet test, dip the cold spoon into the jam and then pull it out. Watch the jam drip off the back of the spoon, it should drip off in a sheet (not run or be individual droplets). This is called sheeting and if the jam comes off in one sheet it’s reached the gelling point.
The other test is called the plate or saucer test. Instead of a spoon place a small plate or saucer in the freezer. To check the set of the jam, place a tablespoon of jam on the cold plate. Let it sit for a minute (so it cools and you don’t burn yourself) and then run your finger through the middle. It should separate and not run back together.
If you perform either of these tests and the jam isn’t set yet, put your spoon and/or saucer back in the freezer, cook for 5 to 10 minutes, and then test again.
Wash, remove stems, and pit cherries. Get the cherry pitter!
Roughly chop up cherries. Place chopped cherries in a large stockpot. Add 1/2 cup water to cherries. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll see the cherries begin to break down and thicken.
Stir in sugar and lemon juice, mixing well. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Sugar will scorch quickly if not kept moving.
Boil, uncovered, till thick, about 25 minutes, and has reached the gel point via one of the above tests. Remove from heat and pour into hot jars.
Wipe rims with a damp towel, put on lids and bands. Submerge in hot water bath and process for 15 minutes.
Take off of heat and let sit for 5 minutes before moving to a folded towel. Let sit for at least 12 hours before checking seals on jars. Then store in a cool dark place for up to a year. If any jars didn’t set, store in fridge.
To make this into a freezer jam, simply follow all the instructions through step 3 and instead of canning, allow jars to cool and then freeze.
In a hurry and want the convenience of cherry jam with a 2 minute boil time (before processing) while still using low sugar?
The only store-bought pectin I use on our homestead is Pomona’s Pectin because it doesn’t rely on sugar for the set (it uses calcium instead) and is the only non-GMO pectin I’ve found without questionable ingredients.
Plus, 1 box makes multiple batches of jam and you can even do completely no sugar batches, which you can’t do the old-fashioned way because you need sugar to reach the gelling point. And no, I’m not sponsored by Pomona’s, but if they’re reading this, I’d totally take a box of pectin in exchange!
This is the bulk option of Pomona’s Pectin I purchased last year and the best price I’ve found for 6 boxes. For the no store-bought pectin recipe SCROLL DOWN
8 cups smashed pitted cherries
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cups of sugar
2 Tablespoons powdered pectin (in your Pomona’s box)
2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons calcium water (comes with your box of Pomona’s pectin)
We had this on fresh bread last night for a snack and it was soooo good. Don’t throw those pits away either. Place them in jar and then cover with vinegar. Put in a dark cupboard for a few weeks and you’ll have cherry pit vinegar. Strain vinegar and enjoy!
There you have it, the perfect and easy cherry jam recipe. What’s your favorite thing to eat with your cherry jam?
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.