Red Jam

Red jam

Having acquired a stunning loaf of bread that had toast written all over it, I simmered up a small pot of jam using the handfuls of berries I foraged from my sisters’ back yards (strawberries in Anne’s, raspberries in Ali’s) and the Nanking cherries I shook into my empty coffee cup between the car and our house, and a few Juliette cherries plucked at my parents’ house. I want everyone to know that making jam is not scary, and does not have to be an all day, dozens of jars process.

Red berries

Small Nanking cherries and even bigger but softer, juicier sour cherries can be tricky to handle, not quite firm enough to be pitted for pie. Typically impatient with random cherries, I usually cover them with water, bring them to a simmer and press them through a colander back into the pot to get rid of any pits. As easy as draining spaghetti, really. From here you can make syrup for waffles or cocktails, or go the jam or jelly route – I tossed in some raspberries and strawberries and added about half as much sugar as there was fruit. Measured completely by eyeball. (I rarely use any packaged pectin.) Bring it to a simmer and cook it until it turns into jam – really, that’s it. I caught most of the process on Instagram stories last night – at first the berries will look like simmering berries, then they’ll condense, the bubbles will get slower, the foam will start to disappear, and it will look like warm jam. If you want to test it, spoon some onto a cold plate and push it with your finger once it starts to cool – it should wrinkle.

Testing jam

I let mine cool in the pot and if it’s too runny for my taste, I bring it back to a boil for another minute or two. Seriously, it’s that easy – and I love just making a jar or two to have in my fridge for toast and scones. If you want to store it longer, stick it in the freezer. Jam is not scary! And with so many good red (and purple) things growing right now, I’m hoping more people will do this. No recipe required.


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12 comments on “Red Jam

  1. esme
    August 3, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    I am living proof that jam is stupid easy to make IF your advice is followed (e.g. no pectin, use the “wrinkle” test or the “trail through the jam” test etc.). Since I started using the “Julie method”, I frequently impress myself and my family by casually making delicious jam in our ancient cast iron skillet. Even in winter! (Sometimes I buy frozen fruit just to make jam.) My few jam “failures” converted effortlessly into fruit syrup for spooning over ice cream or (heh heh) frozen fruit cubes for floating in sangria/sparkling wine/coolers etc. As a long-time and battle-scarred kitchen klutz, jam is one of the things I make (thanks to you!) with zero anxiety and stress. TRY IT EVERYBODY. IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO IT.

  2. Julie
    August 4, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Esme, you just made my whole week!!!

  3. Vivian
    August 4, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Just yesterday I had my first harvest of Evans cherries and made jam in just about the way you described…unfortunately I didn’t twig to the idea of just boiling the fruit, pits and all to render juice. Spent an hour carefully de-pitting each blasted little cherry! Duh! It’s lovely, ruby and jewel-like but stull packs a pucker! I’d love to tame that a bit. Thinking maybe a tad of vanilla paste and/or almond extract? Thanks for helping celebrate our lesser-known culinary prairie gems.

    • Julie
      August 4, 2017 at 9:53 pm

      Sounds amaaaaazing! A lot of people add a bit of almond extract, but I’m not a fan. You’re thinking of adding something to the finished jam?

  4. lovetocook
    August 4, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Yes! Julie. There is nothing as good as jam, jelly, pancake syrup, punch or cocktail base…made with the berries around us in summer. I don’t use pectin either, but I add a squeeze or two of lemon juice to enhance the flavour and help jelling. Spoon into jars (sterilized) while hot and count the pops as they seal.

  5. Vivian
    August 5, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Adding extract to the finished jam…yes…but now I’m thinking maybe not. Chalk that one up to experience. There are more cherries to be harvested so I will tweak the next batch, adding vanilla or a teeny tad of almond when off the heat. I’ve seen a reference to “Juliet” cherries on your site…are they viable in our part of the world…ie. mid-central Alberta? I’d take a chance on growing them if so. Their flesh is much darker than the Evans cherry, closer to a Bing.

    • Julie
      August 8, 2017 at 11:16 am

      I’m starting to see them everywhere… they are very similar to an Evans cherry, and get darker as they turn almost over-ripe!

  6. Barb
    August 5, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    Julie, made this jam out of just raspberries this afternoon. Took me about 1/2 hr start to finish including dishes. Did about 3 cups of fruit and scant 1 1/2 cup sugar and a squeeze of lemon for good luck. It turned out beautifully.
    1 bon mamma jar and 2 small glass yogurt jars. Shared one and the rest is for scones and toast.
    Thank you so much . No more big batches to kill my self processing in this heat. It’s awesome. I did a toast test while it was still warm.

    • Julie
      August 8, 2017 at 11:16 am

      This makes me so happy!! 🙂

  7. Caroline Csák
    August 28, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Usually I make syrup or jelly with our sour cherries ( way too much work to pit those suckers!), but after the delicious sour cherry jam we had in France last year I may donate a couple of hours to the cause, and actually try pitting some. But I’ll definitely try this for the cherries that are already frozen.

  8. Danielle
    September 27, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    I guess I’m in the minority! I can jam/jelly all year long as things come in and out of season, takes me maybe 1.5-2 hours from start to finish. I always add pectin, unless it’s something like apple butter which cooks down and thickens up on it’s own. But I always buy the “no sugar/low sugar” Ball pectin (sure jell I believe has aspartame in their no-sugar pectin which is just yuck!) and I don’t add that much sugar to a batch. I’ve only ever had a problem 1 time and that was with strawberry jam, it has almost no natural pectin in it and so needed some extra to thicken up properly. I don’t get the whole jam/pectin intimidation thing I guess.

    I like the idea about using a colander to get rid of the cherry pits! I made a batch of black cherry jam and bought a 6 at a time cherry pitter to speed it along. But a colander would’ve been soooo much quicker! Next time.

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