jamalama: sour cherry jam and some unintentional syrup

I love fruit. Really love it. Aside from baked goods, I’d generally be okay eating fruit as the main ingredient of my sustenance. The few times that I’ve been in Israel/Palestine, I gorged myself…fresh figs, dates, lychee, tootim (no idea what the English name is, they’re kind of like white raspberries that grow on trees), and cherries…so many cherries. I kid you not, kilos of cherries. I lived with a frum (“ultra Orthodox”) woman in the Old City; the two of us used to sit around eating cherries together, as there wasn’t much other food that we could share. So while my political feelings on I/P are for another time and place, but my love of their produce is unsurpassed.

Given my love of fruit, I was surprised to find out that there are *two* different broad categories of cherries — sweet and tart. Who knew! Obviously lots of people, but not me. I never quite got why cherry pie tasted like it did, or why maraschino cherries weren’t quite the shape of “regular” cherries. Now I know! At first, my discovery of the tart cherry was merely textual. A few weeks ago everyone and their brother started posting sour cherry recipes. I was a little jealous…all these people and their recipes for a fruit I’d never even tried. I became maybe a little bit obsessed by the search for cherries, but I couldn’t find any u-picks by us and there weren’t any at the farmers markets either. Likely weary of my near constant discussion of the mystery cherries, the betrothed did some reconnaissance for me. As it turned out, they had all sorts of sour cherry goodness at the Logan Square Farmers Market. We were headed to pick up the small fry in Chicago the following day, so we’d just leave the house earlier than usual…so I could get my fix. The next day we did a quick drive-by of the market. At the very first stall were lovely quarts of sour cherries! We traded $20 for four quarts, cruised around the market for a bit (super cute / relatively reasonably priced), got an iced coffee at some kind of silly, new wave-themed coffee shop, then went on our way.

I started in on the jam research as soon as we got home. The small fry asked to taste one…a bold move on his part. Despite my warning that they weren’t sweet, he insisted. I wish I had a photo of the puckery face he made, while declaring “Not so good!”. The adults, now we were sneaking cherries left and right. So tasty.

Eventually, I decided on a version w/ pectin, since I read that sour cherries are low in pectin, so don’t gel very well. The first step was to pit them. So many posts complain of it being tedious, but I thought it was rather meditative. Once the everything was pitted, they required squishing.

Then it was a matter of just boiling them w/ sugar and pectin.

Well, at least I thought it was a matter of “just boiling them,” because, as I discovered the next morning, the jam neglected to gel. In retrospect, I think I boiled it on too-low heat, so managed to negate the gelly wonderfulness of the pectin. It took me a few days to come around to try one of the many jars of “should’ve-been-jam-but-is-syrup-instead”. Turns out that it’s damn good…particularly on vanilla ice cream.

Now I wasn’t dissuaded from the jam project, since I had two more quarts to play with. This time I went w/ a pectin-free version, to which I added the zest and juice of a lemon. I also opted out of the frozen plate test and instead went with the thermometer method, boiling away until it was 218 degrees. This time I boiled it like mad — no more wimpy boil for this lady.

Now the jam gelled-up nicely, the problem, this time, was that it wasn’t quite sweet enough for my taste.

Next time I will increase the sugar/fruit ratio. Of course now that the season is over (wah!), my plans to make 1/2 pint cherry jam favors for the wedding have been foiled. I suppose we’ll have to determine a different fruit…see yesterday’s post for insight into the wedding-crafting-death-spiral.

The recipes I pulled from are here:

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