Tuesday, July 19, 2011
It's not very nice of me to post a tart cherry recipe seeing as their cruelly short season is pretty much over, but I just love tart cherries so much. So much that I blew a good chunk of my grocery budget on tart cherries a few weeks ago. Some girls like shoes but me, I like expensive produce, sue me. Their bright tart flavor makes them the perfect fruit for jamming and baking. This year I made this batch of jam which I will carefully ration until next year (wishful thinking) and I froze a few quarts so I can bake up a cherry pie the next time someone invites me over to dinner. Maybe I'll bring some homemade ice cream too, any takers?
Tart Cherry Jam
Adapted from David Lebovitz and The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
yield, about 5 half pint jars
4lbs pitted tart cherries, pits reserved
2 1/4 lbs sugar
1/3c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Place the cherry pits on a hard surface (like the floor) in between two old towels and gently tap them with a hammer until they crack. I used a paper grocery bag for this step and it got a little messy, lesson learned. Remove the tiny kernel from the cherry pits until you have about 1 1/2T, coarsely chop them. If you have no idea what I am talking about, the kernels look like this and they lend a subtle bitter almond flavor to the finished jam. Place the kernels in a tea infuser or a tightly tied cheesecloth bag.
2. Combine 3lbs of the cherries with 1 3/4lbs of the sugar in a large heatproof bowl. I use my hands for this step, squishing the cherries between my fingers to "chop" them a little bit.
3. Put the remaining cherries, sugar, and 2oz of water into a non-reactive jamming pot. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil stirring often, then boil the mixture until the cherries have shriveled and the liquid is thick and syrupy, about 7 minutes. Immediately strain this mixture over the reserved cherries in the bowl, pressing firmly to extract as much cherry goodness as possible. Discard the cooked cherries.
4. Add the cherry mixture, along with half of the lemon juice and your reserved pits back into the jam pot. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil, stirring often and cook for 10-15 minutes being careful to not let the jam scorch. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture rest for a minute or two. Skim the foam off of the top of the jam and discard. Stir in the remaining lemon juice.
5. Return the pot to the heat and bring to a boil. Cook the mixture for 5 more minutes, then test for doneness. If necessary, cook for a few more minutes. I ended up cooking my jam for about 5 more minutes. Remove the cherry kernels, then pour the jam into clean, sterilized jars. Store in the fridge or process in a boiling water bath for 10min to make the jam shelf stable.
- A friend of mine bought tart cherries at the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday, so NY'ers will probably still be able to get tart cherries until the end of the week. Run, Quick!
- Before ladling my jam into jars I usually sneak a few spoonfuls of the cherry syrup from the pot and save it for cocktails and soda. I don't know if this is proper jam etiquette, but I do it anyway, and it is good.
- Following Autumn's lead, I spiced up one of my jars by stirring in a few crushed red pepper flakes and a 1'' piece of vanilla bean before sealing the lid. I am pretty excited serve it with my next cheese plate.
- If you can't find tart cherries, feel free to use this recipe with sweet cherries. The finished jam won't have the characteristic pucker that tart cherry jam does, but it will be delicious none the less.
- This jam has a fairly soft "set" which makes it great for topping things like ice cream and yogurt and less good for eating in a sandwich. It's too precious to mix with peanut butter anyway.