Cherry & Black Pepper Jam

This fresh take on cherry jam comes from Lillie O'Brien, the mastermind behind London Borough of Jam; originally published in her cookbook Five Seasons of Jam (Kyle Books). Since you are making a big batch of jam here, a manual cherry pitter is helpful.

If you cannot find apple jelly in stores, you can make your own – we've included Lillie's recipe for Green Apple Stock Jelly below. Apple jelly provides a natural pectin that can be used for jams made with fruit naturally low in pectin (like cherries). Lillie's Green Apple Stock Jelly recipe makes 10 x 220g jars.

As with all jam recipes, make sure to sterilise your jars before filling them. Since jars need to be warm when filled, Lillie recommends starting the process while your jam is cooking. See 'BK Tips' for Lillie's instructions.

See also: Lillie's Raspberry & Liquorice Jam for summer, Fig & Earl Grey Jam for autumn, and Kumquat & Brandy Marmalade for winter.

Makes 7 x 220g jars

Ingredients: Cherry & Black Pepper Jam

2kg cherries
5g black peppercorns
1.1kg caster sugar
200g Green Apple Stock Jelly (recipe below)
Juice of 1 lemon

Method: Cherry & Black Pepper Jam

  1. Wash the cherries in cold water and pick off all the stems. Strain them in a sieve, making sure all excess water is drained. 
  2. Use a cherry pitter to remove the stones. Put the cherries in a heavy-based saucepan, set over a low heat and start cooking them gently until they start releasing some liquid and begin to break down.
  3. Gently grind the black peppercorns using a pestle and mortar until you have a coarse powder. Add this to the pan.
  4. Once the cherries appear to have started stewing, slowly start adding the sugar, stirring to dissolve, then add the jelly and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook the jam until setting point is reached, 105°C on a sugar thermometer or Thermapen
  5. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for 3 minutes, stirring to distribute the
    cherries, and then pour into warm sterilised jars and seal immediately. Store in a cool dark place.

Ingredients: Green Apple Stock Jelly

2kg Bramley apples
3 litres cold water
1.5kg caster sugar
1 unwaxed lemon, juiced

Method: Green Apple Stock Jelly

  1. Wash the apples, cut into quarters and then halve these chunks again. Put the chunks in a heavy-based saucepan and pour over the water. Slowly bring to a boil and cook until the apples start to break down, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and pass the pulp through a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a large bowl. Leave for 2 hours to allow the juice to drip through. Don’t push the apple pulp through the cloth or the liquid will become cloudy. It should produce about 1.7 litres of strained juice.
  3. Pour the liquid into a clean saucepan, add the sugar and lemon juice and slowly bring to the boil. Once it is on a rolling boil, cook until the jam reaches setting point, about 15 minutes and 105ºC on a sugar thermometer or Thermapen. Store in a cool dark place.

BK Tips

  • These jams will keep for at least 12 months unopened. Make sure that the jars have been properly sterilised and fruit has been cooked to the right temperature – these factors are essential for preservation.

  • Here is Lillie's method for sterilising jars: Pre-heat the oven to 110°C fan, and set a saucepan of water to boil. Wash the jars in warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly, but do not dry. Set the glass jars (without the clips, rubber seals or lids) on a baking tray, open-side up, and put them in the oven for 30 minutes. Place the clips, rubber seals or lids in the saucepan of boiling water and let it boil for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it rest in the saucepan until ready to use. When the jars are done sterilising, turn the oven off and let the jars sit in the warm oven until ready to fill. It is best to do this while you cook the jam, as the jars, lids, and clips should be warm when you fill it. 

  • If you are using an unlined copper jam pan to make any jam, jelly, or preserve recipe, sugar should be added to the jam pan at the same time as the fruit. (For example, mixing cooked fruit and sugar together before transferring the mixture into a copper jam pan to finish cooking.) This prevents copper from reacting to the acidic components of fruit.
Five Seasons of Jam by Lillie O’Brien is published by Kyle Books. Photography by Elena Heatherwick.