From my Plated Heirlooms

Allow me to tell you a little story

As I was in Amman this summer, visiting my grandma, and while her guests were busy catching up, she called me to the kitchen. “I have something I want you to try.” She said and brought out a spoon and a jar – you know the simple home-canning jars. “This is the best cherry jam you will ever taste” she declared.

I dipped the spoon in the jar scooping out a cherry and ate! Gooey, chewy, with a thick caramel sauce consistency. Sweet, but not overly. Deep, bold and fruity. Explosive and juicy; with a sweet fruity aftertaste to ensure you come back for more!! All those qualities in just one bite!

In comparison with other cherry jams, there is complexity in the flavour, a depth that you do not get with most jams. Most jams are shallow in flavour, hitting your palate with a sugar rush first, then everything else follows. Many a times, the flavour is a medicinal replication of the actual fruit. Not this one! This is so complex and bold with real cherry. There is not a hint of those artificial medicinal flavours. Honestly the best Cherry Jam I have ever tasted!

I was intrigued! So I asked her for the recipe. She looked at me, almost puzzled! “No recipe” she said. “Sometimes we need to be spontaneous in the kitchen. We don’t always need recipes… This is exactly why I wanted you to taste this jam. Sit down, while I make tea.” So we sat down sipping on tea, with a bowl of jam and some toasted pita bread. I, growing impatient. She, taking her time! We sipped, we ate!

When she finally spoke, she said: “I have noticed that everyone is always looking for very complicated recipes. My friends come over for lunch, dinner or even afternoon tea. They love the food, and ask me for the recipe. When I tell them it is simply this and that. They seem to not like it. ‘Oh! That is very Simple’ they tell me, like they have lost interest!” She sips on tea, I contemplate, we eat jam.

“If I need to add cherry flavour to fresh cherries…” she adds, “then why buy fresh cherries? Khalas add cherry flavour to caramelising sugar, along with red food colouring, put it in a jar and call it cherry Jam!” She sips, we eat jam, I contemplate some more.

“Everyone tells me I have Nafas (Arabic word meaning can cook exquisite food, full explanation of the term in my book Plated Heirlooms), But what I really do is use fresh food and don’t over complicate things. Keep it simple. This is the recipe. Not just in food, but in Life!” She said, then sipped, while I still contemplated.

I looked at her and smiled. I fully understood what she was saying, I could even somewhat relate to her frustration. I knew exactly what she was telling me. I love the sense of belonging. The sense that as my Teita (Arabic for Nana), she wants to pass on not just a recipe, but wisdom and advice. She really knew what I needed to hear. Funny how very few people understand you, just as they look into your eyes. Even when you haven’t seen them in a long time. One look at you and they know what you need. I value and cherish these moments, and am telling you only she and I know what was behind the chat. However, I never ever told her, what was on my mind! I had noticed, by then, I had ate a whole bowl-full of jam! I can say, it was that good!

I have decided to post this delicious jam because the goodness of it comes from the fresh black cherries, which are now in season. Nothing better than using seasonal fruits because they will never taste better. This recipe does not use any additives, no chemicals, no flavourings, no food colours, not even pectin! It is simply fresh, seasonal, organic black cherries and sugar. The whole confection is reliant on creating a natural syrup by coating the cherries with sugar, refrigerating overnight to allow the cherries to ooze out their natural juices, which when combined with the sugar create a syrup. Then the whole lot are cooked the next day to caramelise the sugar and result in a jam! Honest, Simple, Goodness…

Since the recipe is one of the recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms, I have also attached for you a video clip of my book “Plated Heirlooms”.


  • 1 Kg organic black cherries, halved and stones removed
  • 3 cups pure unrefined cane sugar

Place the halved and stoned cherries in a large bowl. Add the sugar, and mix to coat. Be gentle as to not squash the cherries, the pieces of cherry are where all the flavour is. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, place all in a large saucepan, and bring to a hard boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiled, lower the heat and leave to cook for 2 hours. Remove the scum (foam) occasionally throughout.

The jam is ready when the consistency becomes sticky, and when a spoon test is done the jam will form a sheet-like film as in the figure below.

Pour the hot jam in airtight jars. Be very careful when working with any hot sugars – sugar burns are dangerous. Close the lid of the jar and leave to cool on the countertop.

Keep refrigerated and consume within 1 month.

Serving Suggestions

  • This jam pairs very well with cheese and is the perfect cheese platter condiment. It loves Emmental cheese, Brie, Camembert… But also goes super with aged cheddar cheese and blue cheeses.
  • Serve with plain scones or even savoury scones the flavours balance each other out perfectly. The same applies to muffins.
  • You can use this jam as a filling for cakes. I have tried it and it works brilliantly with the Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake (use it instead of the filling in the recipe) or Victoria Sandwich Cake (use it instead of the strawberry Jam, and add whole cherries with stems instead of strawberries to garnish the top) or even with the Chocolate Mud Cake (fill with this cherry jam then cover all with ganache). Heavenly!
  • You can also use this jam as filling for doughnuts.


My post: Understanding Jams and Canning, will shed more light on jam-making, and sterilising jars for canning. Check it out if you like to learn more.

This recipe is from the repertoire of over 280 recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms. The book contains recipes from all sections of the Palestinian cuisine, starting with Mooneh (pantry recipes) to Dessert and everything in between. Plated Heirlooms is a documentation of recipes and cuisine rationale as well as the compiled story of the cuisine.

All Plated Heirlooms recipes come with background information and thorough descriptions that in the end tie up with the rest of the book’s narrative to explain to you the formation and makings of Palestinian cuisine.

You can order “Plated Heirlooms” here and we will ship it to you anywhere in the world.

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