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The winter feels even longer when you’re itching to make jam and don’t have any good fruit to work with. I have been playing with marmalades, with some good results and some that I’m glad I only have two jars worth to use. There is the wonderful pink grapefruit-rhubarb-cardamom jam I made in January; we cracked open a jar to have with scones last week and it is sunny and bright, should be even better as it sits and develops flavor. But– I am citrused out! The apple and cherry trees are starting to blossom in my neighborhood, teasing me reminding me that fresh fruit is right around the corner. And so, when I saw this post on Food in Jars a few weeks ago about a jam made from dried apricots, I got really, really excited. A project to do in March with no rind or zest or pith in sight.

I mentioned that I just drew up the first draft of my Jam Plan for the year; apricot jam is near the top, one of my favorites, and I haven’t made any in years. But, I am dreaming of the soft, ripe peach-colored beauties we get from the Magnolia market and couldn’t imagine anything from a bulk bin at the grocery store coming close, so I decided to use the dried apricot jam recipe as a template and come up with something a little different. Another favorite of mine is cherry jam: last year, I had a beast of a time finding cherries to use in the quantity I wanted and, more importantly, at a price I was willing (able) to pay. I made a few precious jars of preserved pie cherries and a few of black cherry vanilla jam, but this year I want more. Bing cherries, Rainier cherries, sour cherries are all on my list, so why not add dried cherries to the mix and see what I could do?

A crucial step in the dried fruit jam-making process is rehydrating the fruit; for a little bit of punch, I elected to use amaretto liqueur instead of water to rehydrate my dried cherries. Amaretto is almond-based and almond is a great accent to anything cherry, so it made sense to me. Because I wasn’t sure what would happen, I used only a cup of amaretto for the soaking step, in contrast to the 2 3/4 c. water used in the apricot recipe. I made up the difference with water in the next step, and was worried it would taste watered-down, but it didn’t. My finished jam is solidly cherry-flavored– deep, dark and rich– with the lightest, most elegant accent of almond; after boiling for 15 mins., all the alcohol from the liqueur is gone, but the almond flavor I wanted remains! A successful first attempt at dried fruit jam, making me excited to try other kinds of fruit and various juices, liqueurs, etc. for rehydration. This project was exactly what I needed to tide me over until the fresh, ripe cherries are available for me to work with.

Cherry Amaretto Jam

  • 8 oz. dried cherries
  • 1 c. amaretto liqueur
  • 1 3/4 c. water
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar

In a glass (or other non-reactive) bowl, soak the cherries in the amaretto at room temperature for 8-24 hours. The cherries will plump up but some liquid will still be visible.

After the soaking period, transfer the cherries and amaretto to a non-reactive Dutch oven or sauce pan. Add the water and lemon juice and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 mins.

Prepare jars and lids for water bath processing; this batch made four half-pint jars for me. Bring the cherry mixture back up to a boil and steadily stream in the sugar; return to a rolling boil and cook over high heat for 10-15 mins., until the jam thickens and looks glossy. Ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars; wipe the rims, affix lids and water bath process for 15 mins. Remove the jars to a folded tea towel and let sit, untouched, for at least 12 hours.