Sweet Cherry Jam with Vanilla and Brandy

This is a small batch- one might call it a Micro-Batch- of jam. The recipe could easily be doubled without risking the set. Its a bright, lightly sweet and tart jam with a bit of a bite from the brandy. I got decadent and used a whole vanilla bean where I probably could have gotten away with half of one. I have no regrets. This preserve would be great with ice cream (I was going to say vanilla but I just got distracted by the idea of this on top of chocolate). It also compliments soft, smeary cheeses; try it with brie or simply with cream cheese on a toasted bagel.

This recipe was originally formulated far outside of cherry season. In the depths of one particularly cold winter, I needed a canning day and made this jam using frozen cherries I had put up the previous summer. The recipe works equally well with fresh or frozen fruit.
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Sweet Cherry Jam with Vanilla and Brandy Recipe
makes 3 4 ounce jars

12 oz fresh or frozen cherries

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon low/no sugar pectin

1-2 tablespoons brandy*

1) Slice open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. In a non-reactive bowl, combine vanilla bean seeds, pod, cherries and sugar. Allow it to sit while the fruit thaws (if frozen) for at least an hour, or leave up to over night in the fridge.

2) Prepare a boiling water bath canner, lids and rings.

3) Pour macerated cherries in to a wide, shallow pan. Whisk in the powdered pectin. Cook at a bare simmer until any remaining sugar is dissolved and fruit is soft, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod. Gently mash the fruit until there are no large pieces left. Stir in lemon juice and bring the mixture to a boil. Maintain at a boil for a minute or two, to let the pectin do its work. The jam will start to thicken.

4) Turn down the heat and stir in the brandy, cooking for another 20-30 seconds and stirring constantly.

5) Remove from heat. Fill clean, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims and apply lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, starting the timer when the water returns to a boil. At the 10 minute mark, remove from heat and uncover the canner. Leave the jars in the water for another five minutes or so to prevent the jam from bubbling out before removing from the hot water to a towel or cutting board. Allow to cool and check the seals. Sealed jars can be labeled and will easily keep for a year in the pantry. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated immediately and eaten in a few weeks.

*I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons brandy for this batch, but I could see someone wanting a little bit more or less brandy flavor, so adjust accordingly. I used brandy because it was what I had on hand and it goes very well with cherry. You could also try with bourbon, scotch or even spiced rum if you desire for an equally tasty jam.
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