Cherry Negroni Jam

While the summer was late coming, it is now in full force (feels like 46C as I write this!), and I have that classic feeling of being totally overwhelmed by all of the fruit. I want it all. I want it all in jars, directly in my mouth, in galettes, in fanciful desserts I have yet to try. I want it. It’s stressful. And, honestly, I think this year I am just going to have to accept that it’s not all in the cards for me.

This Cherry Negroni Jam, for instance– I know I won’t make any this year. I have to work at least 50 hours this week before heading to Montreal to teach a Pickle & Ferment! workshop, and the season for sour cherries is brief at best. And it is NOW. That said, I realize many of you might be in a similar position, or reading this six months from now, when everything is frozen over, so the good news is that this recipe (like most jam recipes) works equally well with frozen fruit.

When I started posting recipes to my website, one of the first that a client and student requested was this. When I produced it for sale it had a very loyal following. It was the result of a collaboration between Preservation Society and Dillon’s Distillers. When I first moved from Montreal to Hamilton, ON, one of the spots I was most excited about being near to was their distillery, which has a cute tasting room where you’ll find all sorts of limited editions. It’s also very near Cherry Lane, which is where I bought all of my sour cherries. Very 100km diet.

We settled on combining sour cherries with the classic Negroni cocktail, which is a mixture of gin, sweet red vermouth and Campari. Dillon’s makes great gin as well as vermouth, and we substituted the Campari for their Orangecello (which is like limoncello, the Italian lemon liqueur… but with oranges). If you don’t have access to Dillon’s products, or if you have another favourite, you can of course substitute a different brand of gin, sweet vermouth and bitter aperitivo.

Sour cherries can be challenging to make into jam, as they have very little pectin. While for the most part I make jams without pectin, for this I used a little low sugar pectin to get a soft set, once a lot of the water had cooked off and the jam had the concentrated cherry flavour I was looking for. That said, you don’t need to use it if you would prefer not to. Just be aware that you will end up with less jars, as you will have to cook off more moisture to thicken the mixture.

To be honest, I made so much of this jam to sell that I’m not sure when I’ll ever make this jam for myself. I still associate it with work! So if I do get my hands on some sour cherries by some miracle, I’ll probably make some brandied cherries to add to my stockpile, or throw them in an apricot jam. But this is for all the Cherry Negroni fans out there. I hope you’re lucky enough to have your own cherry tree and can make enough to last the year!

Cherry Negroni Jam

4 to 5 – 250mL jars

1kg sour cherries

580g sugar

50g lemon juice

4g low sugar/low methyloxyl pectin mixed with 16g sugar (optional)

.5oz each gin, sweet vermouth & Campari (or Dillon’s Orangecello)

If you are using fresh sour cherries, wash, stem and pit them, then weigh out 1kg. If using frozen sour cherries, weigh them while they are frozen. Either way, combine sour cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl or container and allow to macerate at least 15 minutes but preferably overnight (or, frankly, up to a week in the fridge).

Prepare jars and lids.

Transfer mixture pot or preserving pan and heat on medium- high, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture come to a boil, I like to ladle out a few scoops and puree them in the blender to add body to the jam, since the cherries don’t really break down. Just be careful blending hot liquids as they can be volatile. Return the blended cherries to the pan and boil hard, stirring frequently.

Either cook until the setting point is reached, or when the jam is nicely reduced and you like the look of it, add the pectin slowly, stirring constantly. Let it cook a few more minutes– you’ll see when it is set. Remove from heat and add all the liquors, stirring to compbine. Ladle into prepared jars to within a 1/4” of the rim, wipe the rims, and seal. Heat process 5 minutes (or, if you’re keeping it at 90C or higher, just close and turn upside down for 1-2 minutes).

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