cafe mama's kitchen

inconvenient eating

cherries in syrup: new friends and canning jars

I've known Vanessa for less than an hour when I decide she and I are kindred spirits, Anne of Green Gables style, a happenstance of meant-to-be. She has come to a food swap hosted by Chris Musser at the urging of Kate Payne. They're college friends. Vanessa and I are friends for another reason.

It's a sad reason, and it goes to the heart of me, and I ride my bike home slowly, musing. Because I cannot think of anything else to do about this, after a few weeks have passed I invite her over to make cherry jam.

chelan cherries in yogurt

This is probably what you should do for all new friends: clean your house, as much as you have time for; perhaps be the proud accomplisher of a couple of minor organization projects and a major DIY renovation of some upstairs room. Get bad news, news that means you were right, all along, to think more about your pantry than The Man. Buy, spontaneously and with financial abandon (oh, you've just lost your most regular freelance gig, you should have saved that money... but...) 12 pounds of Rainer cherries.

oatmeal with rainier cherries

Eat these, with hot cereal and cream and a little bit of maple syrup (very little, they're sweet) for breakfast. Be amazed. No, like this: falling down and swooning amazed. If you don't really know how to swoon, just roll your eyes rapturously. Did someone douse these with almond essences? Oh, that's right, nature did. Thanks be to the Lord.

When your new friend arrives, accept her hug, provide her with a clean counter space and a paring knife, and begin. Teach her how to pit the cherries and put them into a wide pot with honey and vanilla beans. Explain relative pectin levels and acidity (sweet cherries like these are low, and low). Describe your familial battlefields: this compost heap, that jar of dried curlicues of the zest of kishu mandarins and blood oranges, this chicken's egg. Open first this book, then this other one.

oranges and lemons with peel, january

Check with your son. How would he like to eat these other cherries that are left behind after the jam-making? Frozen, or canned? He looks up from his Minecraft video. "Canned," he says decisively. Go back into the kitchen, proud. And start on the stove a pot for canned Rainier cherries with fragrant orange peels.

one. Take your sharpest paring knife (you have several? At the very least, two). Slicing into the cherries with a rocking-chair motion, cut pieces away from the pit. Slide the cherry flesh into a pot large enough to hold them; for about four pounds of cherries, my pot was a four-quart size.

two. Put the pot onto the stove over medium-high heat. Add enough cold water to be just even with the top layer of cherries; swirl in about 1/3 cup of honey (you won't need much), add several large pieces dried zested peel of oranges you've saved (have you saved? If not, use the most fragrant oranges you can find). Squirt in a little lemon juice, too (a whole lemon can't hurt). Bring the pot to a simmer, and let simmer five to 10 minutes.

three. Prepare jars -- half-pints and 12-ouncers, these cherries are precious goods. Fill to fill lines (just), leaving about 1/2" head space, and remove air bubbles. Place lids on your jars, secure with rings, dip carefully into a canning pot filled with hot water. Make sure your jars are well-covered by the water, by about an inch.

four. Bring hotter... hotter... up to at least 180 degrees, and process this way for 25-30 minutes. Lift carefully from canning pot and place, upright, on the counter for 24 hours. Check seals. Are you good? Great then. Store 'em away. Let me know how they taste in January, over your oatmeal, with cold cold cream: maybe you will perfect the swoon.

july 20 . 2010 . comments

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