The Manhattan Jam: Sour Cherry Preserves Recipe

14625964144_34e5cbd04b_z Because it's cherry season, I'm posting one of my favorite recipes! Enjoy!

The Manhattan Jam // Sour Cherry Preserves    

A Manhattan cocktail in a jar! Sour cherries float in a red glow of rye whiskey, vermouth, orange and bitters

This recipe is an homage to my maternal grandparents, who only drank Manhattans and always traveled with a beautiful portable bar set. Classy.

Cherries are beloved in cultures all over the world, and are preserved from Eastern Europe to Iran. Sour cherries in particular are rich in healthy antioxidants, as well as high in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. They’re also one of the few foods to contain natural melatonin, which is a mood enhancer and sleep aid. Red Montmorency or Morello black sour cherries are my favorite. Montmorency have a slight almond flavor that’s wonderful in this preserve, and Morello black sour cherries have a delightful dark red color.

To remove the pits, the best tool is a snocciolatore (pronounced snotch-ol-atory) or cherry pitter (shown in the photo above). It will make the job much easier. If you don’t want to purchase a cherry pitter, then make a homemade version with a straw and an empty soda or beer bottle; set the cherry on the lip of the bottle and shove the straw into the center – the pit will fall in the jar.

This recipe uses added citrus pectin to minimize cooking time and create a good set. You may prefer to omit the pectin and cook the jam for longer till it congeals. A longer cooking time will produce a jam with a more caramelized flavor.

I highly recommend that you drink a Manhattan or two while making this jam. Produces about four 8-ounce jars or two pint jars

INGREDIENTS 2 pounds cherries, halved and pitted (about 5 cups) 2 ¾ cups sugar ¼ cup rye whiskey 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth 4 dashes of angostura bitters (or use Hella Bitters, my personal fave) 3 tablespoons orange juice zest of 1 orange

FOR THE GELLING This recipe uses Pomona's Pectin, an all natural citrus pectin that's vegan, gluten free and flavorless -- you can find it at many natural grocery stores like Whole Foods and online 3 teaspoons calcium water 2 teaspoons pectin


1 cherry pitter, snocciolatore (Italian cherry/olive pitter), or straw & a bottle

PREP  For the cherries:

Rinse the cherries in cold water. Using a cherry pitter or snocciolatore, remove all pits from the cherries.

Place the cherries, whiskey, vermouth, orange juice & zest, and bitters in a 6-to-8 quart nonreactive pot and add 3 teaspoons calcium water from jar into pan; stir well.

For the jars and lids:

Wash and rinse jars; put them into a big stockpot; cover jars with water and bring to a boil; boil covered for 10 minutes to sanitize. Let stand in hot water until ready to fill.

Bring lids and rings to boil; turn off heat; let stand in hot water until ready to screw onto the jars.

For the sugar and pectin:

Measure sugar into separate bowl or measuring cup and thoroughly mix proper amount of pectin powder into sugar -- using a fork helps to disperse the pectin into the sugar. Set sugar mixture aside.

Place two metal spoons in the freezer. This will be for testing the set of your preserves later on.


Bring the cherry mixture to a boil and continue cooking in high heat for 5 minutes. Skim and continue cooking on high heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.

Pour the mixed pectin-sugar into the boiling jam slowly and carefully, stirring as you add. Stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve pectin.

Return to boil and remove from heat. Skim off any and all foam that has formed at the top.

Pectin gels completely when thoroughly cool; so don’t worry if your jam looks loose when still hot. To test, place a teaspoon of the hot jam onto one of the frozen spoons you prepped; let it cool to room temperature (about 30 seconds) on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency that you like, then the jam is ready. If not, mix in a little more pectin (½ teaspoon into ¼ cup sugar) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.


Fill jars to 1/4″ of top — using a wide-mouth funnel and a ladle to fill the jars helps avoid a big mess.

Wipe rims clean with a damp paper towel. Screw on lids (Ball jar 2-peice lids are easiest to use).

Put filled jars in water; make sure they’re thoroughly covered with 1 inch of water over the top of the lids. Boil for 6 minutes (add 1 minute more for every 1,000 ft. above sea level).

Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter or tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place. You can then remove the rings if you like. Once the jars are cool (at least 4 hours), you can check that they’ve sealed pressing gently in the center of the lid with your finger. If it pops up and down, it’s not sealed. If it’s firm and doesn’t move, then it’s sealed. If any of your jars have a faulty seal, don’t panic, just put the jar in the refrigerator right away and you can still use it – breakfast tomorrow!

Once cooled, store them in a dark place like a cupboard or closet. They last up to 12 months. After about 8 months, they may darken in color and start to separate or become less gelled. Preserves will last four to eight months once open and refrigerated.

Pairs well with soft cheese such as Bonne Bouche, Camembert and Bucheron; great on pizza with barbecued pork and Manchego cheese; delicious on top of yogurt and ice cream.