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. I've also provided a quick-setting method that uses pectin, or an even easier freezer jam recipe so you don't have to heat up your house by canning! No matter the method, these cherry jam recipes come together easily so you can enjoy the bright taste of cherries all year long.
Are your cherry trees ripe for the picking? Be sure you know what to do with all those cherries before they're ready to pick and have a plan to get them all preserved and lining your pantry shelves. Some of my favorites are this cherry jam, cherry pie filling, chocolate cherry sauce, and of course, these adorable mini hand pies!
The one drawback with preserving fruit in the middle of summer that it's often very hot and no one wants to heat up the house. But many of us also only have so much freezer space and need to use up the fruit we harvest before it goes bad.
What Type of Cherries are Best for Jam?
I prefer a sweet cherry jam recipe and my favorite sweet cherry is Bing. They provide that deep red color naturally. I've also used Rainier cherries for this recipe. Rainier cherries are a cross between a Van and a Bing cherry.
However, any sweet cherry will work, so use what you have available to you, or at a good price!
If you have tart cherries, simply increase the amount of sugar in the recipe and taste the jam before cooking, making adjustments as needed. (See the “Update” note below on cooking times if you're using tart cherries!)
Can You Use Frozen Cherries for Jam?
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.
- Multiple Cherry Pitter – pitting cherries isn't always the most fun job, but having a pitter that can do multiple cherries at once sure speeds up the process. If you have kids, this is a great job to have them do!
- Classic Zester- this little beauty makes getting that pectin luscious lemon zest into your cherry jam without the bitter pith so easy if using the no store-bought pectin version.
- Stainless Steel Canner– (Safe for glass top stoves) this water bath canner won't rust like the granite wear 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 for the non-pectin version.
- 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. You can also use a blender or a food processor for this part!&amp;lt;/li>
- Cherries – again this recipe works best with sweet cherries, but tart cherries or pie cherries can also work, you'll just need more sugar so it wouldn't be considered a “low-sugar” recipe.
- Sugar – I like to use an organic sugar like evaporated cane juice, but regular granulated sugar would work as well. Pomona's pectin gives options for using honey or maple syrup, so if you're wanting to use a natural sweetener I would recommend reading the instructions that come with the pectin.
- Lemon juice (or lime juice) – you can use fresh lemon juice or lime juice with tart or pie cherries, sweet cherries should use bottled juice from concentrate for acidity reasons.
- Pomona's pectin (for pectin recipe only)– This ingredient is essential in order to reduce the amount of sugar and time needed to make this jam. (See below for more info on pectin.)
- Calcium (for pectin recipe only) – The Pomona's pectin relies on calcium for the jam to set, this is why you're able to use less sugar, which I love! The calcium isn't an extra ingredient you need to purchase, it actually comes with your box of Pomona's pectin.
What Does Pectin Do for Jam?
Pectin is naturally found in fruits, but not all fruit has 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 as well as added sugar) and acid to create a gel when it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
Commercial pectin is almost always made from GMO-derived ingredients (with the exception of Pomona's pectin) and is an added cost, so many jam makers want to learn how to make homemade jam without store-bought pectin.
Omitting store-bought pectin does require you to cook the jam longer to reach the jelling 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 non-GMO commercial pectin I will use).
How To Tell When Jam is Set
Jam is done when it's reached the gelling point, nice and thick for spreading on toast, homemade buttermilk biscuits, sandwiches, or anything else your taste buds desire. I highly recommend using this jam in my homemade pop tarts recipe!
When the jam is hot, oftentimes it's difficult to tell if the jam has reached the gelling point because it thickens as it cools (it will remain runny while hot). The easiest way to tell if a jam is set is when it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit. You can know this by using a candy thermometer.
Old-Fashioned Gel Tests
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 jelling 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.
Plate or Saucer Test
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.
Update: I've increased the processing time to reach a gel as a few people have had to cook for 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.
Cherry Jam Recipe (No Pectin & Low Sugar)
1. Wash, remove stems, and pit cherries. Get the cherry pitter!
2. Roughly chop up cherries using a chopper, blender, or food processor. Be sure to measure cherries once they're processed, not whole!
3. 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.
4. Stir in sugar and lemon juice, mixing well. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Sugar will scorch quickly if not kept moving.
5. Boil, uncovered until thickened, about 25 minutes, and has reached the gel point via one of the above tests.
6. Remove jam mixture from the heat and pour into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
7. Using a knife or canning tool, slide it down into the jar to remove any air bubbles, then adjust headspace again, if needed.
8. Wipe rims of jars with a damp towel, center the lids on each jar then add bands and tighten to fingertip tight.
9. Submerge in a hot water bath and process for 15 minutes. (Or, if using a steam canner, see video above at the 12:30 minute mark for instructions.)
10. Take off of heat and let sit for 5 minutes before moving to a folded towel when using a traditional hot water bath, if using the steam canner follow instructions in the video.
11. Let jars sit for at least 12 hours before checking seals or removing bands. Then, remove bands, wipe down jars, and store them in a cool dark place for up to a year. Be sure to date and label your jars so you know what's in them!
12. If any jars didn't set, transfer to the refrigerator and use them right away.
Sweet Cherry Freezer Jam
To make cherry freezer jam, simply follow all the instructions above through step 3, and instead of canning, allow jars to cool completely and then freeze.
Alternate Pomona's Pectin Cherry Jam Version
This is the method I'm using in the video above! We had a massive heatwave go through our area about the time all our cherries were ripe, and I definitely wasn't wanting to heat up the house by using the stove all day to cook jam then can it.
When using a recipe that includes pectin you can cut your jam-making time by a fraction and still end up with a great low-sugar jam recipe that you can either can or put in the freezer for freezer jam.
Furthermore, Pomona's Pectin is the only store-bought pectin I will use on our homestead 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.
Cherry Jam Recipe (With Pectin)
- 4 cups smashed pitted cherries (approximately 8 cups whole cherries will equal the 4 cups smashed/pitted)
- 1/4 cup lime juice from concentrate
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 teaspoons powdered pectin (in your Pomona's box)
- 3 teaspoons calcium water (comes with your box of Pomona's pectin)
- Prepare jars and canner with hot water.
- Place prepared cherries, lime juice, and calcium water in a large stock pot on the stove, stir well, and over medium high heat bring to a boil.
- While berry mixture is heating, mix together your sugar and powdered pectin in a bowl until well combined.
- When berry mixture has reached a rolling boil, stir in the pectin/sugar and mix until combined. Stir continuously for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the contents have reached a full boil.
- Remove from heat and fill your prepared jars to a 1/4 inch headspace. Make sure and wipe the rim of jars clean with a damp towel, place lids and bands on and screw down to finger tip tight. Place your jars on the canning rack in your water bath canner, making sure the water level covers the top of the jars by 1 to 2 inches and bring to a full boil. Process for 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Take the lid off and let sit for 5 minutes, then remove jars to a towel and let jars cool for 24 hours. Remove bands, check seals, wipe down jars, mark or label your jars with the date, and place jars in pantry until ready to use!
Did you make this recipe? If so, I'd love for you to leave me a star rating on the recipe card below, then snap a photo and tag me on social media @melissaknorris so I can see! Happy canning!
Other Jam Recipes & Canning Posts You May Find Helpful:
- How to Store Home Canned Food Safely – Jar Stacking & Canning Rings
- Spicy Peach Jam Recipe (Low-Sugar & No-Pectin Jam)
- Easy Blackberry Jam (Low-Sugar & No-Pectin Jam)
- Strawberry Jam Recipe without Pectin and Low Sugar
- How to Stay Safe Canning Homemade Jam & Jelly
Cherry Jam Recipe Without Pectin and Low Sugar
- 5 cups sweet cherries pitted and chopped
- 2.5 cups sugar can use between 2.5-3 cups depending on how sweet your cherries are and your preference
- 5 tablespoons lime juice from concentrate or lemon juice
- Wash, remove stems, and pit cherries. A cherry pitter is highly advised
- Roughly chop up cherries. Place chopped cherries in a large stock pot. 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. Remove from heat and pour into hot sterilized jars.
- Note: It's set when it sticks to the back of a metal spoon. This is called sheeting. Look at the jam dripping off the edge of the spoon. It should look like a “sheet” of jam, not a bunch of individual drops. Cherry jam is not meant to be extremely thick. It's a thinner jam, excellent on pancakes, waffles, toast, etc.
- Wipe rims with a damp towel, put on lids and bands. Submerge in hot water bath and process for 15 minutes *increase processing time for high altitude (see note section). 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.
- Make 2 pints or 4 eight ounce jelly jars.
Recipe for Cherry Jam with Pectin:
- 4 cups smashed pitted cherries (about 8 cups whole cherries)
- 1/4 cup concentrated lime juice (or lemon juice)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons powdered Pamona's pectin
- 4 teaspoons calcium water (comes with your box of Pomona's pectin)
- Pit cherries, then chop and mash or pulse in a blender (do not puree or completely liquefy).
- Place in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add lime juice and calcium water. Stir well. Bring to a full boil.
- If using a STEAM CANNER begin to heat water to 180 degrees F (because this is a hot pack recipe).
- If using a WATER BATH CANNER begin heating BEFORE prepping your cherries as it takes longer to get to temperature than the steam canner.
- While the cherry mixture is boiling, mix together pectin and sugar.
- Add combined pectin/sugar and stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and fill jars to 1/4″ headspace. Remove bubbles and adjust headspace if needed to maintain 1/4″.
- Wipe rims clean, add lids and bands, tightening to fingertip tight, and process for 10 minutes. *
- For STEAM CANNER: turn off heat BUT don't remove the lid for additional 5 minutes, the steam will keep the temperature high and is required for total processing time with the steam canner.
- After 5 minutes move jars to a towel and allow to cool and set overnight or for at least 12 hours.
- Check seals. If the center of the lid gives, then store in the fridge and eat soon. If jars are sealed, wipe them down with a damp cloth, mark them with the date and contents, and store them in the pantry out of the light for up to a year.
- For the WATER BATH CANNER: turn off the heat and remove the lid, allow jars to sit for 5 minutes before removing them to a towel.
- Allow to cool and set overnight or for at least 12 hours. Check seals. If the center of the lid gives, then store in the fridge and eat soon. If jars are sealed, wipe them down with a damp cloth, mark them with the date and contents, and store them in the pantry out of the light for up to a year.
- Yields 4-5 cups of jam