I’m quite a gadget gal. Give me a job and I’ll look for the perfect tool for it. Give me a tool and I’ll find myself seeking out a job for it. In the kitchen of course gadgets and tools are very handy dandy. Everything from slicing to crushing to peeling, I’ve got to get a tool or a gadget for it. I scour shops for THAT perfect peeler, or THAT perfect strainer. Even come home with things that I use only in my Martha Stewart fantasies (Bundt tin) or at best once in 3 or 4 years (turkey carving set). Sometimes, I just have to bin them because they don’t work (perfect hamburger mould). I’ll admit there’s gotta be a name for this condition. But I have a logic – which is? Even if it gets used only once in a while, the job gets done perfectly!! So then – apple slicer? Check. Cucumber corer? Check. Bottle top pressure releaser? Check. Icing spreader? Check. Olive pitter? Check.
Oh yes my olive pitter. Last used 2 years ago when I first arrived in Italy, picked up some gorgeous olives for an aperitivo and discovered they had seeds..not what I wanted to serve. My limited Italian did not let me read the label and check if they were `senza semi’. So voila – off I go and buy an olive pitter! My guests enjoyed the olives, I learned some Italian and the pitter stayed where it was – at the bottom of a basket full of kitchen geegaws.
Until today – when the kids and I harvested our cherry tree for the second time this season, and landed up again with about 4 kgs of cherries. We’ve been enjoying the plump sweet-sour cherries – not as perfectly unblemished and shiny as the supermarket stuff, but still delicious and so very fresh! The thought of it is as much fun as eating the fruit – fresh, natural, pesticide-free cherries from your own garden.
But there’s only so many cherries you can eat – after all it is summer and there’s a lot of fruit eating to get done! So today I decided to do something mad – make cherry jam. Me? Jamming? Good Lord. When did I get to be this domesticated?! But if life hands you cherries….you get creative! So I thought back to Mom’s occasional jamming sessions, added on my logic and concepts of what a process for jam might be like, and finally, checked out Google (which, along with time zone differences, is rapidly putting mothers and aunties out of business in the recipe sharing department).
Long story short, I loved every bit of the process. It was pretty easy, very creative and wonderfully satisfying. At the end of this post. I’ll share with you my net-net take on it. For the moment, let me share with you the process. I did not follow a recipe, just read up a few of them and followed my instinct. Turned out well, so here it is.
FRESH AS FRESH GETS CHERRY JAM (Prep time 30 mins, cooking time 25 mins)
* Cherries – about 1/2 kg (Pitted ! This is where my olive pitter came in handy. Would have been a crazy job without it). Once pitted, chop roughly – I did this directly in the pan, slashing away with a pair of kitchen scissors.
* White sugar – approx 3/4th of volume of cherries (I just eyeballed it, no measurements). Yes – that’s a lot of sugar, and yes, that’s why regrettably, for me, jam has to be a weekend treat only!
* Juice and zest of 1 lemon. To set, jam needs a gelling agent (otherwise cooked fruit would stay as juice or pulp). Typically they use a substance called pectin which is found in the rind of citrus fruits. I wanted to make a simple jam without getting into the hassle of buying pectin (don’t ever remember Mom using any) so using lemons would give me the gelling quality I sought
– In a deep pan, put in cherries, lemon juice and rind and cook over medium heat for about 10 mins until the fruit has softened.
– Add the sugar and cook on medium-high heat until the mixtures boils and then reduces.It is important to stir frequently at this stage. Once the foam settles and the bubbles disappear, the mixture will come together and start to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Take it off the heat and let it cool even though it does not look very jammy at this stage – it tends to thicken as it cools. If it is already jammy when you take it off the heat , it will become plasticky, like gummy bear candies!
– If you can resist, wait for it to cool before enjoying it on bread or toast.
– Once it is cool, scoop it into a clean and dry glass jar with a tight lid, and it should last for a couple of weeks.
Would I do it again? Yep – if there was something special enough (like a glut of fruit) that would justify it. It is not much effort but it is easy to think about how much easier it is to jump out and buy a jar of top quality jam. It’s a recreational thing – and was fun for me because I was feeling creative. My kids loved it – again, the concept plays an important part here. Tiny sweet-sour cherry jam sandwiches made for a fabulous summer dessert!