Berries and cherries and rhubarb – cherry jam

This week has been busy with a yeast class happening, as well as plenty of produce on offer here, needing to be preserved one way or another.  The berry patch is going a little crazy – what I thought were loganberries have turned out to be youngberries, and a few nights ago I discovered that the second trellis of very prickly vines is producing boysenberries.

We used to grow them once before  – how could I ever forget those tiny prickles and huge thorns (they have both)? A neighbor arrived with some magnificent black cherries and the rhubarb patch is growing like topsy.  Must be the alpaca manure it was fed over winter – the stalks and leaves are huge. This agistment of the two alpacas is certainly working out well in that respect.

So the afternoon started with a large tray containing raspberries, strawberries, youngberries and boysenberries from our berry patch and plenty of the rhubarb stalks, and the cherries of course.

What to do with all of this?  What a luxury to have such an abundance. First came cherry jam – I knew they were eating cherries but wanted to give them a try, though was aware it could be difficult to get the jam to set.  They would by their very nature be low in acid and pectin.  Still, a little would be worth the making for toast, and if it didn’t set – well, I’d use it to flavor yoghurt or ice cream.

Cherry Jam in the making

The end result was not as set as well as I would like – possibly next time I’d add half a teaspoonful of pectin powder, but it is still fine for toast.

I thought of making stewed rhubarb for a pie, but as I have a Preserves class here next week and it’s likely to be hot I decided to opt for sparkling rhubarb to serve to those who attend.  When it came to weighing up, I was short on rhubarb and too tired or lazy to be bothered going back to the rhubarb patch, so decided to make up the rest of the weight with black cherries.  Still not enough, so added some of the frozen Morellos, picked last week at Chris and Sally’s cherry farm.

The dark cherries would add colour as well as flavor and the morellos a lovely acidity and more vibrant colour.   That’s the great thing about the sparkling fruit drinks – you can make it with whatever you have to hand, whatever is in season.

By this time any thought of fatigue was gone – I wondered how a batch using all Morello cherries would taste, so another bucketful was made to try it out.  So now there are two buckets sitting on the bench to be bottled off tomorrow, which was already busy beyond words.  Never mind, it’ll be worth it.

Finally, I used the berries and a handful more of the cherries I found in another bowl to make the filling for a summer pudding, which I’ll put together on Saturday for a large family get together meal we plan to have here on Sunday.

Here is the recipe for Cherry Jam, made with the dark coloured eating varieties of cherries – it’s well worth making if you don’t mind the fact that it will inevitably be a soft set jam.

Dark Cherry Jam

 1kg cherries

1 teaspoon citric or tartaric acid

¾ cup water

850g sugar

Pip the cherries and tie them in a piece of muslin (or any thin cloth) tied at the top with string.

Place the cherries, bag of pips, citric or tartaric acid and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring often.  Simmer for 20 minutes, remove the bag of pips, pressing out all the juice as you go and then ad the sugar to the pot.

Bring to the boil, stirring, and boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until setting point is reached, about 20 minutes.

Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then pour into warm sterilized jars and seal immediately.

Turn jars upside down for 15 minutes, the invert to right way up – this helps the cherries to stay evenly distributed through the jam, rather than rise to the top.

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