Kentish cherry jam, a sweet treat.
Kentish cherry jam, a sweet treat. Photo: Karleen Minney

This is the ideal Christmas present. Of all jams, this one wins first prize for me. The tartness of the sour cherries makes the best flavour and the bright clear ruby colour looks like Christmas jewels.

The downside is you have to find a Kentish cherry tree, and in our climate they are ready to pick about December 17. Also you have to stone the cherries. I have a very old-fashioned gadget inherited from a grandmother, which stones the cherries as you wind the handle. However a hand stoner can be bought at most kitchen shops - another idea for a gift.

I have used the more widely available cherries, but for my taste it is too sweet, so if you try this, perhaps use more lemon juice - the juice of one extra lemon. If the cherries are ripe and sweet, it is often hard to get a good set, and the jam can become syrupy, but it should set with pectin and extra lemon juice.

The work involved in stoning the cherries makes it a labour of love for a Christmas present, but a memorable one and worth the effort.

Kentish cherry jam

Makes makes 14 jars of 200ml

2kg stoned Kentish cherries

100ml lemon juice

2kg caster sugar

20g pectin (see below)

Bring the fruit to the boil. Mix the pectin into the sugar, making sure it is well distributed.

Add the sugared pectin and lemon juice to the fruit and boil on high for about for 35 minutes, or until setting point is reached. It should be stirred from time to time to prevent it sticking and burning.

Bottle while hot into clean sterilised jars. Sterilise jars by boiling for five minutes in a large saucepan, ensuring they're fully submerged in water.

Note: Pectin is available at health food shops. Supermarkets also sell pectin sugar, which can be used to replace the sugar and pectin.

>> Robbie Howard is the owner of Lynwood Preserves.