Thursday, 13 January 2011
Day 4 of Seven Days of Cherries
Cherry and vanilla is a match made in heaven.
They work so well together because the kernels inside cherry pits have a natural almond-vanilla flavour. The spice mahlab (also known as mahleb, or mahlepi) is actually made from the dried kernels of St Lucie cherry pits and it’s traditionally been used to flavour breads and desserts in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Levant the same way Europeans use vanilla.
There are loads of cherry jams out there, but my favourite two recipes probably come from Not Quite Nigella and David Lebovitz because they are easy to follow and because I love their blogs.
I like the Lebovitz version because it’s a fuss free, no-recipe jam that makes sense and I like the NQN recipe because it suggests using jarred sour cherries and jamsetta.
I didn’t use jam sugar or additional pectin this time because I feel like my jams get a strange taste from these products (it could very well be my imagination, but I don’t think so).
While the flavour of my finished cherry jam was perfectly luscious and edible by the spoonful, it’s certainly a very runny jam. It doesn’t bother me, but some people like their jams firmly set.
Having said this, even with some added pectin this jam isn’t going to gel into sticky clumps like commercial jams and is always going to be just a little runny.
And don’t forget Lebovitz’s jam adage “the best jam is cooked quickly” so once the sugar goes in, gun it!
Cherry & Vanilla Jam
Anna's combination of various recipes from the internet. Makes around 1 litre (4 cups)
1kg fresh cherries, pitted
125ml (½ cup) lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
2 vanilla pods
(50g jamsetta, optional)
1. Chop ¾ of the cherries into smaller pieces and leave the rest, because as Lebovitz says “Leave some cherries whole so people can see how hard you worked pitting real cherries. If you leave too many whole ones, they’ll tumble off your toast”.
2. Quarter vanilla pods by halving once lengthwise and once crosswise.
3. Put cherries into a saucepan with the vanilla pods, lemon zest and lemon juice then cook for around 15 minutes until cherries are completely tender and juicy.
4. Add the sugar and stir until sugar dissolves (around 10 minutes).
5. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cook for around 5-10 minutes, or until mixture is at setting point.
6. Check to see if jam is ready by dropping a small amount onto a chilled saucer and allow it to set for 30 seconds in the freezer. Run your finger through the mixture. If it wrinkles rather than runs, it has reached its setting point.
7. Remove from the heat and pour into jars, tightly screw on lid and then turn jars upside down to create vacuum seals (takes 30 minutes). Store in a cool, dark place.
Variation: instead of vanilla, Lebovitz recommends kirsch, clear cherry eau-de-vie or a few drops of almond extract to flavour the jam.