Friday, August 5, 2011

Easy cherry jam

Breakfast: Wholemeal toast with home-made cherry jam

Lunch: Orzo salad and other salady goodness from Sun Valley

Dinner: Veggie pad Thai

The older I get, the more I am turning into a farmer's wife. This is quite worrying for a 24-year-old who lives right in a city, but is enjoyable nonetheless.

I learned how to make jam with the lovely Hana on her sustainable farm in the Malaysian mountains, when we had just picked a vast amount of rosellas and been bitten to death by fire ants* doing so.  Whenever I can get hold of a big stack of blackberries or blueberries I now make my own jam at home, and when we were given 3 bags of cherries last week I decided that now was the time for cherry jam. The only problem with jam is the mad amount of sugar that goes into it; by using dates too you can bring the amount of sugar down a little bit and feel slightly less guilty eating that scone with jam.

Wear something red or black that you don't mind sacrificing to the god of DIY jam before you make this. I will not be responsible for the throwing away of that favourite white shirt.

You'll need:
As many cherries as you like
1/2 that amount of sugar
1/8 of that amount of pitted dates
1 lemon
Pull the stalks off the cherries and remove the stone. I've tried every way to do this and the easiest is to just rip them open with your fingers. Slightly barbaric, but effective
Chop them roughly and throw them into a pan with the juice of 1 lemon
Cook them, stirring, over a medium heat until they're all soft and squidqy and all the juices have come out
Measure how much cherry pulp you have - let's say you have 4 cups
Add half that amount of sugar to the pan with the cherries - so 2 cups
Add and eighth of that amount of pitted dates, chopped, to the pan - so 1/2 cup
Crank the heat up to 3/4 full (high) and DO NOT STOP STIRRING
At some point, the jam will start to look like jam. This could take 20 minutes or 40 minutes
When it thickens, keep stirring until its almost at the right consistency
When it cools, it will solidify even more, so stop when you feel its almost jam-like and put it into jars

While all the above is happening, you should sterilize your jars by taking the lids off and placing them upside down in a large pan which is half full with water. Keep this boiling while you're making the jam, then, being very careful not to burn yourself, put the jam into the jars when it's finished. Any bacteria in the jars will ruin your jam, and as we're not using any artificial stabilisers, it's important to sterilize them properly.

Depending on the taste that you're going for, you can use more dates for this recipe. Just experiment every time you make it and see what suits you best.

Home-made jams also make really nice presents, although the transformation into farm housewife is 90% complete when you reach that stage.

*Fire ants are my nemeses. They don't let go!

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