by Pam Corbin

Cherries divide into two main types. Succulent sweet cherries are the ones you eat straight from the tree or the bag, whereas the slightly smaller sour cherries are generally used for cooking. Both types can be used for making cherry jam, but both are low in pectin. This recipe uses jam sugar, which has added pectin and citric acid to help the jam set.

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Buyer's guide

There are many different types of cherry, including maraschino, griotte and Morello cherries, from which kirsch and Black Forest gâteaux are made. Look out for telltale punnets of deep red cherries in markets from mid-July to the end of August. The best cherries are plump, firm, glossy and free of blemishes; the stems should be fresh and green. Cherries benefit most from being stored at cooler temperatures - warmth can compromise their flavour and texture.

Preparation

A perfect bedfellow for rich ingredients, it's no surprise that perhaps the most iconic cherry dessert is the decadent Black Forest gâteau, with its layers of deep, dark chocolate, fluffy cream and kirsch liqueur. For something lighter, eat sweet cherries straight off the stalks, or remove the stones before stirring into Greek-style yoghurt with a drizzle of honey. Dried sour cherries impart that all-important sweet-sour tang to many Iranian and Middle Eastern dishes; alternatively they're just the thing to add a little extra pizzazz to your morning muesli. Sour cherries are an excellent foil for fatty meats, and so are perfect for giving a classic duck dish a summer twist - try adding them to sauces or chopping the flesh into spicy salsas.