Cherry season is fleeting. The trick is to find as many uses as you can to preserve their ruby-red, sweet or sour goodness. One treat I love to can is Chocolate-Bing Cherry Jam. This jam is delicious on cheesecake, icecream, waffles, pancakes, crepes, and more. The small 1/2 pint jars are beautiful gifts too. Jam is shelf-stable for up to one year.

This recipe calls for liquid pectin. You can find this at most grocery stores during canning season or online. There are several brands to choose from. Liquid pectin is a naturally occurring substance (a polyscaccaride) found in berries, apples and other fruit. When heated with sugar, pectin causes a thickening that is characteristic of jams and jellies.

The recipe also calls for high-quality cocoa. I like a nice, full-fat cocoa and like Penzey’s version that you can buy at their stores or online.

You will need clean 1/2 pint  jars and closures, a boiling-water canner, rack, jar lifter, canning funnel, and wooden skewer

Preservation method: Waterbath canning

Difficulty Level: Easy

Chocolate-Bing Cherry Jam

Makes about six 1/2 pint jars

6 cups fresh Bing cherries, stemmed, pitted and coarsely chopped

One packet (6 tbsp. or 90 ML) liquid pectin

1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

6 cups sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I like Penzey’s high-fat cocoa)

Place rack in the bottom of a boiling water canner, then place empty jars on the rack. Add water to the jars and the canner until the jars are about two-thirds full. Cover the canner and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Place lids in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Do not boil. Keep lids hot until ready to use.

Combine Bing cherries, pectin, and lemon juice in a 4-quart Dutch oven. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat that cannot be stirred down, stirring constantly.

Meanwhile, stir together sugar and cocoa until blended. Add all at once to boiling cherry mixture. Return mixture to a full rolling oil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam off the top.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars to within a generous 1/4″ of top of jar. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary by adding more hot jam. Wipe rim with towel.

Apply lids and bands and adjust until fingertip tight. Place jars in boiling water canner.

When all jars are in the canner, adjust the water level in the canner so that it covers the jars by at least one inch. Cover the canner with a lid and bring water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling hard and continuously, begin counting the processing time of 10 minutes.

Once time is complete, turn off heat and let jars sit in canner an additional five minutes (this standing time allows the pressure inside the jars to stabilize and reduces the likelihood of liquid loss that could otherwise occur when the jars are removed.)

Remove jars and place on a kitchen towel-lined space. The towel will help reduce the chance of jar breakage. Do not dry the lids or jars at this point. You do not want to disturb the lids while the seals are being formed. Allow jars to cool for 24 hours before removing bands and wiping down jars. Date jars and store in a cool dry place for up to one year.

Recipe adapted from “The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving”