Chances are slim that you will someday buy a house with its own cherry tree. How many of us have even asked a realtor to find us a house with a fruit tree in the front yard? I guess we were just lucky.
To be honest, I had mixed feelings when I first appraised our unexpected bonus last August. This cherry tree had grown up as wild as an unrestrained child. Branches sprouted at odd angles and tangled in the electric lines. I was relieved to see an abundance of last season’s shrunken, unpicked cherries on all these willful boughs. This hopeful sign dimmed when the tree unexpectedly shed its leaves well ahead of the others leaving a bristling silhouette in an otherwise green landscape. I was embarrassed for it.
To my relief our cherry tree came to life early this spring in a profusion of leaves and blossoms. Nature cleverly saw to it that each delicate blossom quietly and efficiently pollinated itself. It was only when the small green peas that replaced the flowers matured two weeks later into bright red fruit did everyone suddenly notice the bountiful cherry tree in our front yard.
I had no trouble recruiting a team of underage cherry pickers in the form of our granddaughters for whom this sort of labor is fun. I’m guessing they ate as many of the sweet fruits as they picked. I didn’t complain, and neither did they when it came time to pit the cherries by hand for their individual cherry tarts. (That recipe is still classified. Another time.)
This is the point where I direct you to a cherry jam recipe in my newly reprinted cookbook Artisanal Preserves. Except there are only recipes for sour cherries in the book not sweet ones. Never mind. I went ahead and created a new recipe. I will walk you through the process.
All cherries have very little pectin, the component in fruit that creates a gel when sugar is added. Rather than add a high pectin fruit to the cherry puree as I did in the sour cherry recipes, I took a simpler route. I made a jam of thicken cherry pulp and sugar.
There still is the question of how much sugar to add and how long to cook the jam. I knew that if I were making a fruit gel, I would add the same volume sugar as fruit. Since these cherries are already sweet, I guesstimated they would need only half that much sugar. It's also true that appearance and consistency of jam determines the cooking time. It’s differs slightly each time. Instead of giving an exact length of time, I describe how to test the jam’s thickness in the recipe.
My first batch of cherry jam was tasty but not quite as interesting as I had hoped. I added a small amount of almond extract the second time and was very satisfied. Click on the title under the photo for the link to the recipe. Cherries are still in the grocery and reasonably priced at the end of the season. Enjoy!
Sweet Cherry Jam with whipped cream and a Cornmeal Muffin (Artisanal Preserves, pg. 164)
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