When Linda Amendt hands you a jar of jam, you do a silent little dance, because you know it’s going to be the best version of that kind of jam you ever had.
Linda is the most decorated, beribboned home preserver on the planet, with more than 900 awards in food competitions across the country. Her books “Blue Ribbon Preserves: Secrets to Award-Winning Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and More,” and “175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and Other Soft Spreads” are authoritative, instructional, practical guides to cranking out soon-to-be legendary jars from your own kitchen.
So when she greeted me at the Orange County Fair last month with a jar of Cherry Jam, I was elated. Oh joy, oh rapture! We were both there to judge culinary competitions, but all I could think about was cracking open the lid on that jam.
Cherries are still in the market, so why don’t you try your hand at it? Let her guide you to success.
Recipe: Bing Cherry Jam
Summary: Deep red, chunky with fruit and bursting with fresh cherry flavor and whiff of almond, this jam is a multiple blue ribbon winner, including Best of Division.
- 4 cups pitted and chopped fresh, ripe Bing cherries (about 3 pounds)
- ½ cup strained fresh lemon juice
- 5 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon unsalted butter
- 1 (3-ounce) pouch liquid pectin
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- In an 8-quart pan, combine the cherries, lemon juice, sugar and butter.
- Over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the entire contents of the pectin pouch. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Skim off any foam. Stir in the almond extract.
- To prevent the jam from separating in the jars, allow the jam to cool 5 minutes before filling the jars. Gently stir the jam every minute or so to distribute the fruit. Ladle the hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process half-pint jars in a 200F (93C) water bath for 10 minutes, pint jars for 15 minutes.
Linda notes the Bing cherry crop was the worst she’s seen in 30 years this year. “The fruit I picked was also underripe, so I combined the Bing cherries about half and half (you know, a handful of these and a handful of those, a handful of these and a handful of those…) with some very ripe Tartarian cherries I picked the following weekend. The combination worked beautifully.” The moral is, use what you have! She was making the jam for favors for her nephew’s wedding – 120 4-ounce jars of cherry jam. “So, I had to be creative and improvise and came out with a great result. I’m just glad it all worked out and the happy couple are thrilled with the gifts they will share with their guests,” she said.
Recipe source: “Blue Ribbon Preserves,” by Linda J. Amendt (HP Books).
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 6 half-pint jars
Culinary tradition: USA (General)