Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cherries Get Me Out of a Jam

I went cherry picking this weekend.  I love picking fruit, but I learned that I really should not do this alone.  When I am by myself I am not capable of ignoring any rude, insensitive behavior from strangers.  I need the calming influence of other people who can distract me, or at least remind me not to embarrass myself.  I narrowly avoided an incident among the cherry trees this weekend.  I will spare you the dirty details, but a group of rude strangers almost made me lose an entire bucket of tart cherries.  If you've ever picked cherries, you know they aren't the easiest fruit in the world to pull off a tree and fill up a bucket.

I decided to vacate the fields and head home knowing my husband and our kitchen could make me feel better.  Not so fast, missy...your gas tank is on empty.  So, I pull into a nice gas station (calm down, it wasn't BP), and attempt to release the fuel door.  Haha!  Foiled again....it is broken and won't release.   Fortunately, it was a service station and two mechanics walked out to help me.  They finally got the gas tank open, but now the trunk won't close.  After about half an hour, we finally finagle it closed and I'm on my way.  Then, traffic....sigh.

I was pretty cranky when I finally got home.  I admit that one of my many faults is that I have trouble shaking things off, just ask my husband, but I felt particularly pushed that day.  I had lost most of my enthusiasm for cooking with my freshly picked fruit.  Luckily, my husband had not, and he cajoled me into the kitchen to start making cherry jam.  Oh my gosh, I am sooooo grateful I did.

We did an awesome job with this jam.  It is some of the best jam I have ever eaten.  We lick the knife after spreading it on scones.  Tasting this, all my negative feelings disappeared and I was really happy that I had picked tart cherries.  And, I'm pretty confident the rude strangers aren't eating something as good as this with their cherries.

Tart Cherry Jam
Makes about three 8-oz (half pint) jars

3 cups fresh tart cherries
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Wash the cherries thoroughly.

Remove the stems and pits.  We used our OXO Good Grips cherry pitter, which works very nicely.


You can also improvise a cherry pitter and use a wooden skewer, drinking straw, or pastry tip.

I roughly chopped the cherries so that it would not just be whole cherries suspended in jelly.  I was careful to save the juice as I chopped and added it all to the pot.

These cherries were very juicy so there was plenty of liquid with the fruit when I turned on the heat to medium high.  I added the lemon juice and sugar and kept stirring as the sugar dissolved.

Bring to boil and turn down the heat to medium or medium low, continue to stir to prevent sticking.  The  jam will thicken and bubble, keep stirring.

Now to test for doneness.  For the last batch of jam, we used the freezer test.  We dribbled a bit of the cooking jam on a plate and put it in the freezer for a minute, then swiped the puddle with our finger to see if the liquid stayed separate.  This method led to some minor disagreement between my husband and myself, so we decided to use a candy thermometer this time.

It took about 15 minutes of cooking and stirring until the mixture registered 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Pour the jam into hot, sterilized jars and seal.  Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

As the jars cool down, you should hear a pinging noise as the lids pop from a vacuum forming.  After a couple of hours, press down on the center of each lid.  There should be no flex.  If the lid flexes, you will need to repeat the boiling water bath process to reach a vacuum seal.

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