Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the jam later.
In a ceramic or stainless-steel bowl, combine the pitted cherries with 1½ pounds of the sugar and stir to combine. Place the orange rind and star anise into a fine-mesh stainless-steel tea infuser with a firm latch. Set the cherries and the infuser aside.
In an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide nonreactive kettle, combine the unpitted cherries with 6 ounces water and the remaining 5 ounces of the sugar. Place the pan over high heat and bring the cherries to a boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook, mashing occasionally with a potato masher, until the cherries have shriveled and the liquid has become syrupy, about 7 minutes. Add 1 to 2 ounces more water to the fruit during cooking if the liquid appears to be cooking down too rapidly. Immediately drain the cherries through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing down on the fruit until every last drop goes through. Discard the drained cherries. Return the cherry syrup to the preserving pan, along with the lemon and orange juices, brandy, mesh tea infuser, and pitted cherries and their sugar. Stir well to combine.
Bring the jam mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a heatproof rubber spatula, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until done. Monitor the heat closely as you stir; if the jam begins to stick, decrease the heat slightly. Between stirrings, skim the foam carefully off the top of the mixture and discard. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and test the jam for doneness. It should by now look dark, glossy, and syrupy. Do not stir it.
To test for doneness, carefully transfer a small representative half-spoonful of jam to one of your frozen spoons. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment. Tilt the spoon vertically to see whether the jam runs; if it is reluctant to run, and if it has thickened to a near-jelly consistency, it is done. If it runs very quickly, cook it for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed.
When the jam is ready, use a stainless-steel spoon to skim all the remaining foam from its surface. Remove the tea ball. Stir in a few drops of kirsch. Pour the jam into sterilized jars and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions or as directed on page 42.
Note: If sour oranges are unavailable, replace the sour orange juice with sweet orange juice mixed with a little lemon juice, and the sour orange rind with sweet orange rind.
Approximate Yield: six 8-ounce jars
Shelf Life: 1 year
Reprinted with permission from © Rachel Saunders The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders click for book review
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