In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Sour Cherry Jam.

Depending on which island you’re from you may have a different name for these sour cherries as I found out when I posted a pic to the facebook fan page. However, one thing is common throughout the Caribbean.. the way we prepare this sour cherry jam. Sour is usually the word we use as North Americans would use “tart” to describe the taste or flavor of something. So with that in mind, I must say that these cherries are good for two things.. making chow ( a spicy pickle) and for stewing down into this crude form of jam. Too sour to do much else.

A rather simple recipe which takes me back to my school boy days, when my daily allowance would be spent on a portion of these from the vendors outside the school compound in San Fernando, during recess break.


You’ll Need…

3 cups Caribbean sour cherries
1 cup sugar (white)
2 sticks cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger (grated)
1 cup water
8-10 drops red food coloring

Notes: Please allow this cherry jam to cool fully before serving.. it will be very hot. Though this is considered a jam it will have the seeds, so be aware when eating.

We first have to take some of the “sour” out of the cherries, so put the cherries into a deep pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Not only will we remove the tart taste, we’ll also get the sour cherries very tender. Let it go on a rolling boil for 20 minutes, then take off the heat, strain and get ready for the next step.

Then pour the now cooked cherries into a saucepan on low heat and add the sugar, pinch of salt, cinnamon, ginger, 1 cup of water and red food colouring. Bring this up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.

As this sour cherry jam stews down, it will get infused by the lovely aromas of the cinnamon and ginger and the sugar will give it that lovely balance good jam should have. Allow this to simmer for 30 minutes with the saucepan covered. Remember to stir every 7-10 minutes. By now the cherries should have absorbed the rich red color (as it would be done traditionally) and start to fall apart from being very tender. The goal now is to thicken the liquid, so remove the lid and cinnamon sticks, then turn up the heat. When it starts off it will not be as red, but the more it stews down, it will intensify. So if you need to add more food coloring (if you want it more red), add near the end so you can gauge how red it is better.

As it thickens, do taste for sugar and adjust accordingly. I ended up adding 2 extra tablespoons of sugar to my batch. Since your cherries may be more sour (or sweet) than the ones I used (no 2 are the same), you may have to add some sugar. Yes, you can use brown sugar if you wish. It will take about 5 minutes for the sauce to thicken up, but try not to burn off all the liquid as it will thicken up when it cools down.

Unlike other jams, this sour cherry jam is not a spreadable jam as there is a seed in every cherry and more for snacking.. unless you know of a way to de-seed the cherries (do share with me) and as I mentioned above.. do let it cool before sampling. You can bottle and store this in the fridge for a couple months, but I know it will be gone before then.

I’d love to know what name you know these sour cherries as and do say which island you’re from, in your comments below.

Before you go, don’t forget to check out the latest cooking videos, connect with me on twitter and join our community on facebook. oh yea! leave me a comment below – it’s appreciated.


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  1. Penny
    May 11, 2018 / 4:21 pm

    I added a pinch of nutmeg and 1 clove to your recipe and it was perfect. In St. Lucia we use brown sugar so there is no need for food colouring. This was my first time trying to make this in my own and your recipe was a helpful guide.

  2. Luis
    May 8, 2018 / 10:30 am

    Hi Chris, In Puerto Rico we call them groceyas. We eat of the tree or make dulce de groceyas—or yam. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Gloria
    October 20, 2017 / 4:50 pm

    In Bermuda, if it’s the same fruit, ours is already red on the tree. We call them Surinam Cherries.

  4. Astrud
    June 25, 2017 / 10:30 am

    Hi Chris, thanks again for the childhood memories.
    In JA we call it Jimbilin. We use brown or white sugar and without food coloring.

  5. Bernetta
    April 13, 2017 / 5:10 pm

    In St. Lucia it’s called gooseberry or seawet.

  6. Roxanne
    November 13, 2016 / 1:49 pm

    Hi Chris, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines we call them Damsels!!

  7. Shireen
    June 17, 2016 / 7:38 am

    Hi, I’m from Grenada and we call it Damsel. We prepare it the same way, just using brown sugar.

  8. Juanita
    May 19, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    This fruit is known as gooseberry in Guyana also.It is quite good when eaten with salt and pepper

  9. Eve
    May 14, 2016 / 10:53 am

    Hi Chris..Good recipe..Here in Bim we make similar..They are called goose berries!

  10. corinne
    April 21, 2016 / 4:20 pm

    In Suriname we call them sour birambi and we make it more or less the same way.

    • Michael
      April 26, 2016 / 9:41 am

      in the US Virgin Islands we call them gooseberry and we eat them fresh off tree or prepare them like you and even make ice cream with them

  11. Vanessa
    March 16, 2016 / 8:22 am

    thank you was looking for this recipe for the longest while. thank you.

  12. Florence Francis
    January 21, 2016 / 2:03 pm

    In St. Croix we call them gooseberry. They are more sour than sweet, but askids we also eat it as is right off tthe tree.

  13. Glenda
    April 14, 2015 / 7:49 pm

    I remove the seeds . Boil them and discard the water, and then cook them with sugar, and cinnamon. When cooked I add wine and keep it in a jar for use in my cakes

  14. MM
    March 9, 2015 / 3:25 pm

    In St. Lucia we call them gooseberries (English name) and siwette (creole name).

    • admin
      March 9, 2015 / 5:16 pm

      thanks for the lesson.

  15. Lin
    February 15, 2015 / 2:58 pm

    I’m the U.S. Virgin Islands and back home we just call it cherry stew but the actual name most people known it as is gooseberries. We usually only get the pleasure of eating this stew during our carnival festivities. It was never year round.

  16. Lorna Marchan
    January 13, 2015 / 9:45 am

    In Trinidad we call it sour cherry. I never make jam with it but I am going to try. Thanks for the idea.

  17. Aurea
    January 4, 2015 / 3:29 am

    Do u have a recipe for tomato jam……my Mom made it for us when we were kids…we fought for the pulp which we put on crackers for our after school snack…..I left T’dad 46 yrs ago and only after my kids left home did I start cooking trini foods and thoroughly enjoy your recipes

  18. pinkypinky
    August 18, 2014 / 6:40 am

    pitting gooseberries literally means detroying the gooseberry into 1/4 or 1/5

  19. pinkypinky
    August 18, 2014 / 6:35 am

    since it has seeds i pit the gooseberries and then boil them for a little less of time. thanks.

  20. Astrud
    August 17, 2014 / 9:32 am

    Jamaicans call this jimbelin jam..we often use brown sugar, ginger, no cinnamon.
    Where do you find them-USA.?
    Thank you.

  21. sade
    June 25, 2014 / 7:04 pm

    Hi, I’m from Barbados and we call them gooseberry. We don’t use food dye and I’m not sure about the ginger either. When it’s finished it has a brown color.

  22. anne marie
    May 6, 2014 / 2:17 pm

    yummy! Long time I ent eat dat. Reminds me of when I used to buy it after school about fifty years ago. These days those cherries are hard to come by.

  23. Pulpagal
    March 12, 2014 / 12:59 pm

    I’m from Dominica and in the village and surrounding areas where i am from we call it gooseberry. My mother was a vendor of this and we had several trees in our yard. We usually soaked the fruit in plain water overnight. My mom would then go through the fruits picking off old spots and dirt and sorting. The fruit was then rinsed and placed in a pot on the fire. We did not add any water or coloring since gooseberry produces its own water and dark colour by the end of the boil. We also used brown sugar since it was cheaper. Not sure how to explain when it was the right consistency but somehow even as a child we just knew when it was done. I guess you looked at the size of the bubbles in the syrup and the colour. A lighter red meant it was nearing done. Darker colour (not burnt) meant it was ready. This could be eaten off a spoon but we usually placed each fruit on a skewer made from the little bones in the branch of the coconut leaves and then sold individual skewers which was stringed with at least 7-10 of those little fruits. Lots of work, but quite presentable and convenient for selling!

    • pinkypinky
      August 18, 2014 / 6:29 am

      hi.over here in dominica,we also call them gooseberries.they are incredibley grandpa has a tree.i soaked them overnight after removing the stalks.cannot wait to try this thanks.

  24. Lemi-Lynx
    February 25, 2014 / 1:06 pm

    Buenas. Im from Antigua and these are called raspberry…prepared pretty much the same way for the initial stages. However, we do not add food coloring of any sort, neither is ginger added.

  25. donnette
    February 22, 2014 / 9:10 pm

    Hi I am from st.vincent and the grenadines we call it damsel, we scald it, throw away tge water, then we put back the damsel on the heat with brown sugar, cinnamon,bay leaf and bring it to a boil then to a simmer until damsels are red and tender and sauce has thickened. No water is used or added the damsel produce its own.

  26. lisa
    February 21, 2014 / 6:45 am

    In svg we call this damsel. Thanks

  27. lisa
    February 21, 2014 / 6:33 am

    I am from st.vincent and the grenadines, we call them damsel we eat them with salt or as a stew. Thanks

  28. Marsha
    January 16, 2014 / 8:32 am

    I’m from Barbados and they are called gooseberries….we stew them here and its called gooseberry preserves.

  29. Paula
    June 1, 2013 / 2:36 pm

    I am from Trinidad and we call them cherries or sour cherries or cerene cherries but I now live in Antigua and they call it raspberry

  30. SpiceBlondee
    May 28, 2013 / 11:04 pm

    I am from Grenada and we do indeed call this fruit "damsels"… I just tried this recipe and it turned out really good seeing as this is my first time making stew. I did also had to add more sugar at the end. Am so thrilled right now, thanks alot 😀

  31. EX Pat
    February 8, 2013 / 1:05 am

    Hello Chris,
    I am from Trinidad and know this only too well. Being in Canada now can you tell me where you bought these ? I am anxious to make the jam now that I have the recipe. Do you also by any chance have the pepper sour recipe

  32. Frank
    October 23, 2012 / 1:07 pm

    On the island of Utila, Bay Islands of Honduras we know them as CHALAMELA. They are eaten with vinegar, salt and black pepper, they are also stewed as Chris has demostrated, and they are also use to make a jam that is colored red as in the stew method.
    They are delicious any way you chose to use them.

  33. Lucille
    October 19, 2012 / 10:32 am

    Chris, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we call these Damsels. Looking at a tree in my yard right now.
    We stew them and make a super delicious juice and wine with them too.

  34. Cpstx
    October 19, 2012 / 8:57 am

    Yes, in the Virgin Islands (St. Croix) I grew up eating "gooseberries." It is known as gooseberry stew and popular around our annual Agriculture and food fair held in February along with my other favorite tamrind stew.

  35. Sondra
    September 20, 2012 / 5:37 pm

    In Dominica we call it gooseberry and we also put them on stcks.

    • pinkypinky
      August 18, 2014 / 6:33 am

      we do?i thought we slap it on some bread and nom? i dominican too, you know.

  36. Nicky
    August 28, 2012 / 11:33 am

    Hey chris in the virgin islands we call the "sour berries" goose berry

  37. Tassie
    August 22, 2012 / 7:16 pm

    In Guyana it is called goose berry.. It can also be eaten with salt and pepper / pepper sauce

  38. christine guyton
    August 21, 2012 / 9:15 pm

    Hi, I want to try sour cherry wine can you pleaz post the recipe for me and also where can I purchase half and half . Thanks again P.S your cherry jam looks great.

  39. beverly
    July 23, 2012 / 2:44 pm

    i know this sour berry as you called them as raspberry. Island Antigua

  40. Kay
    July 23, 2012 / 1:24 pm

    Had this for the 1st time last year in Grenada. They call it damsel stew! And I couldn't find anywhere online what the name of the fruit was. Great to see this recipe! Don't know if they have anything like these cherries stateside, but at least when I get my hands on a batch, I'll know what to do:-)

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