Thursday, September 15, 2011

cherry jam

Cherries were very reasonably priced at the grocery store leading me to buy an extra five pounds to make cherry jam.  I like making my own jam because then I know exactly what's in it.  And I manage to avoid all of the nasty ingredients that I do not want in my pantry, HFCS, artificial flavors, artificial colors, etc.  that I complained about in a recent post on grape jelly.

Jam is very easy to make.  I've taught a lot of people how to make it and invariably the response is, "That's it?"  Yes.  That's really it.  It's not that hard, it just seems complicated because most of us don't can food anymore.  Honestly I don't even make that much these days.  Now that the kids are older and most of them out of the house we just don't go through jelly, jam, chutneys, and pickles the way we used to.  So I tend to save my efforts for the more expensive items.  Like cherries.

After washing and draining the cherries comes the task of pitting them.  Without fail every single time I make cherry jam I wonder why the heck I have never invested in a cherry pitter.

I need one because, first it takes a doggone long time to pit five pounds of cherries.  Second if you've ever tried to get cherry juice out of a white blouse you'll appreciate that my fingernails look none too clean for at least a day or two afterwards.

Another challenge is trying to pit the cherries without attracting the attention of other people in the house.  Invariably five pounds of cherries turns into a fair amount less after certain unnamed people start eating them faster than you can pit them.

To make the jam simply combine the cherries with lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, and pectin and let it cook for a while on the stovetop until it thickens.  There are lots of great recipes for cherry jam out there.  The one I use comes from the Ball Blue Book which is a great resource for recipes and information on preserving all kinds of things.

My other favorite canning/preserving book are:

Once you've created jam you put it into sterilized jars, hot water bath it and then you're done.  One of my favorite sounds is the little plinking noises made by the lids sealing after their hot water bath.

The jars will keep for up to two years in the pantry.  Each time we take one out and eat it we are reminded of the sweet, juicy taste of summer.  Believe me, in the middle of winter the hot, steam-filled kitchen and huge pots a-boiling on the stove are a far distant memory.  It's all worth it.

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