Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wild Cherries, A Pretty Clean House and A New Giveaway

My mother is coming to visit in a few days so much to everyone’s delight; I decided that it’s time to clean out the fridge. I really hate to admit this, but instead of a place to cool fresh foods, all too often mine is relegated to being no more than a food graveyard. As I have grown older and wiser, I have started putting my leftovers in Ziploc bags that can easily be tossed into the trash so the likelihood of running across a well loved dish tucked in the back, full of the dreaded blue/green hair, is dramatically diminished. Well, as hard as I try not to let this happen, I still managed to run across a lovely little Cameoware dish (hey, I’ve been looking for that!) full of what appears to be a collection of mossy rocks. My best guess is that it must have at one time been either bleu cheese dressing or a cure for cancer. Either way, I quickly chased it down the disposer with the sink sprayer all the while holding my breath.

After the fridge ordeal even my next chore seemed pleasant in comparison, scrubbing the many indoor water features in our home. It seems like we spent the first part of our lives climbing up the ladder striving to have that large home with 5 toilets and now that I have it, I long for a house with only 2 or 3 to spruce up for company. Multiple toilets are highly overrated in my opinion. After cleaning my son's bath, I have decided that it should be sealed off permanently. Personally, I am suspicious that there is a family of bears sneaking in at night and using it. All I will say about my daughter’s is it would have made Sid and Nancy proud. I’ll just leave it at that and let you use your own imagination.

After dusting, vacuuming and sorting through the mountains of mail that had accumulated on our dining room furniture, everything seemed pretty much in order so my daughter and I headed up the street to pick some cherries off of our neighbor’s trees. I have to admit that upon tasting the tart little cherries I didn’t have much hope for the jam that I was planning on making, but my neighbor assured me that they were well worth the effort. We picked about three pounds and brought them home and spent hours pitting them before we started our jam making process. I had made jam before many moons ago, but not often enough to have a great recipe down pat so I hit Google for help. After pouring over several recipes, I decided to use David Lebovitz’s as a base because I like the idea of reducing it down instead of using packaged pectin. I cooked the cherries and added the sugar and instantly my whole house smelled of cherry pie, hmmmm, delightful. My neighbor was right; they are well worth the effort. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try sometime. You can either freeze the finished jam or if you are adventurous, process the jars for extended shelf life but either way you’ll have a taste of summer all year long.

Tart Cherry Jam

3 pounds tart cherries, pitted and stemmed (once pitted this yielded about 6 cups of cherries and juice for me)
Zest and juice of 1 – 2 lemons
4-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup Serrano pepper or 1/4 cup Habanera pepper, thinly sliced across with seeds and membranes (optional)

Coarsely chop about 2/3 of the cherries and then place all of the cherries with their juice and the lemon zest and juice in a large stockpot over medium heat. Cook until cherries are soft and cooked, approximately 20 minutes.

Add sugar and simmer over medium to medium high heat, stirring frequently until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. If you would like to make a Tart Cherry Pepper Jam, stir in the Serrano peppers at this time and cook for just a few minutes longer. Place a small white plate in the freezer to chill. Remove the jam from the heat and place a spoonful of jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer for a few minutes. After a couple of minutes, push your finger through the jam. If the jam is thick and “wrinkles” on the end of your finger it is done. If not, return it to the heat and cook for a few minutes longer and repeat. You want your jam to be thick but not too thick so cook it in short increments of time and test it often. When it is done, add the almond extract if desired.

Pour jam into very clean dry jars and either freeze or process in a water bath for approximately 5 minutes before storing for later enjoyment.

This recipe yields about 8 – 8 ounce jars of jam.

My newest CSN Giveaway

The folks at CSN have once again given me a $60.00 gift card to give to one of my lucky followers. Just leave me a comment and I'll throw your hat into the ring. If you're not already a follower, I'd love to have you click on the "Follow" button and join my blog. I'll be chosing a winner on August 10th in honor of my son's first day of school. YAY!

Welcome to those of you who found my giveaway listed on