It's one of the most wonderful times of the year - sour cherry season! And instead of embarking right away on my usual sour cherry pie extravaganza, I decided to turn my first couple of pints of sour cherries into sauce-like topping for a tangy goat cheese and crème fraiche cheesecake. It's a recipe I developed for my Times column to run in mid-July. The sticky-sweet topping, which I enhanced with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to give it a little more zest and oomph, was just divine.
In my sour cherry exuberance, I made too much of the sauce. Not that this is a huge problem, I could have easily eaten that sauce right out of the jar.
But in the end, I decided to make the sauce into jam. Slathering that sour cherry goodness on a slice of toast seems so much more respectable and adult than lapping up the sauce standing in front of the open fridge, straight from the jar. Plus I have a small child to set a good example for. So jam it was, and it was easy, too. All I had to do was cook down the sauce with a touch more sugar until it thickened and jelled a bit (though not too much, I like loose jam). And it was so excellently tart and bright and fruity, I can tell this is going to be my new go-to recipe for sour cherries. Until the market has enough on sale to make a pie, that is.
Sour Cherry Jam with Balsamic Vinegar
Makes about 2 cups jam
1 cup sugar
2 pints sour cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Place a small plate in the freezer. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar with 1 cup of water. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cherries and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally, while the cherries soften and release their juices. Continue cooking until the juices reduce by half and the mixture begins to thicken, 15 to 20 minutes. Test to make sure the jam will set by dropping a small spoonful on the cold plate. If the jam forms a puddle that wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it is done. Transfer the jam to a sterilized jar and store in the pantry or refrigerator.