Spiced Cherry Jam
As we drove off down the uneven dirt road, destined for our return home, his little sing-song voice exclaimed, "Mummy, I like that market, it fun!" And that crocodile mentioned above, well he found his way into the car, positioned directly beneath Beau's feet. They were sharing a "make-believe" ice cream. Thank goodness he was a friendly one!
We whispered to one another as we ducked and weaved our way through the cherry trees, branches hanging low, laden with glistening ruby red gems. We were not only looking for those perfectly ripe dangling cherries but we were also keeping a close look out for the fairies who were darting in and out between the trunks of the trees. Beau had informed me that they were in fact having a tea party and he wanted to join in. We also had to keep a close eye on the crocodile who was lurking about...the imagination of a child is a wondrous thing.
I love that sound of the cherries hitting the bottom of the bucket, every so slowly weighing my arm down as its filled. Beau followed behind, face and hands covered in cherry juice - his cherries, dare I say it, were not even close to making it into said bucket. No, they ended straight up in his tummy!
As we drove off down the uneven dirt road, destined for our return home, his little sing-song voice exclaimed, "Mummy, I like that market, it fun!" And that crocodile mentioned above, well he found his way into the car, postioned directly beneath Beau's feet. They were sharing a "make-believe" ice cream. Thank goodness he was a friendly one!
Each year I promise myself a cherry pitter and each year I forget, or go to buy one and find that every other person has had the same idea and that the store has sold out. So it was my thumbs, yet again, that received a workout as I sat at my kitchen bench removing the tiny little pips and popping the halved cherries into my large jam making pot. Toasted, freshly ground cloves, peppercorns and cardamom pods were stirred through the vibrant piping hot liquid and it was all allowed to bubble away before pouring into the awaiting jars.
I generously spread the last remaining spoonfuls from the bottom of the pot onto a thick slice of fresh sourdough and ate it then and there whilst standing in my kitchen, the sunlight filtering through the window, the pool of sticky warm jam glistening.
I just love this time of the year, especially when it comes to gifting edible treats. There is a simply joy gained when one takes the time to package up a little parcel of home made goodies - biscuits, mince pies, granola and jars of jam just to name a few. Perhaps if you do find yourself making this jam, you too can realise that simple joy when you hand over a jar to a friend, a neighbour or someone special in your life. Just remember to save those last remaining spoonfuls from the bottom of the pot for yourself...its the best part!
Spiced Cherry Jam
Makes about 11 x 120ml jars
1.2kg fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup lemon juice
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups sugar
In a small dry frypan, add the spices and peppercorns and toast lightly until fragrant. Then crush to a fine powder either using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.
Once you have pitted all of your cherries, pop them into a large pot, reserving the pips in a square of muslin, tie this up into a little parcel and set aside for the time being. Pour in 1 cup of water and the lemon juice and place the cherry pip parcel in with this too. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat so that it is just bubbling away nicely. Stir every now and then for the next 30 minutes, or until the cherries are tender when pushed with the back of the spoon.
Now you can stir in your lovely spice mixture.
Pour in the sugar and stir until its completely dissolved. Return the cherry mixture to a boil and then reduce down so that it is bubbling away a bit more than what it would be on just a simmer. You can scrape off the scum that rises as you go, but I tend to do this at the very end. Make sure you continue to stir quite often as you don't want the jam to stick to the bottom of the pot! Let it bubble away like this for at least 30-40 minutes, or until thickened. You can pop a small plate into the freezer and when you think that the jam is done simply put a small spoonful of jam onto the plate and then pop it back into the freezer for about 30 seconds, if when you slide your finger through the middle and it leaves a pathway then the jam is ready.
It is important to keep a close eye on it once it has almost reached setting point as it can very quickly burn!! Trust me, its happened more than once and the poor pot was never the same!
While the jam is bubbling you can get your jars ready. I simply soak them in hot water in the sink and then place them onto a baking tray and pop them into the oven on about 120 degrees until they are dry.
Turn the heat off the jam when you are happy with the consistency and run a spoon around the top to remove any scummy looking bits. ladle into a jug and then carefully pour into the jars, it will be piping hot so be careful. tighten the lids, using a dishcloth and an oven glove works for me and then turn the jars upside down for a couple of minutes before turning them the right way up once again. (this helps to seal the lids) Wipe down with a hot cloth and leave to cool completely. Label and date and store in a cool, dark spot. It will last at least 12 months. Once opened store in your fridge.