Today: bowls and bowls of buttercream. Baking flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and vegan ginger snaps. Filling and frosting three tiers of a wedding cake (the other two having been done the night before) with lemon curd, vanilla buttercream, almond paste, and homemade cherry jam. Mooning over that cherry jam because: so good. Cleaning the house and doing laundry. WORKING the day job because my coworker had the day off and a lot of stuff came in. Frantically packing up for the weekend. Foam rolling the heck out of my left itb. Waiting for my parents to come over for the night. Whew.
Anyway, it’s cherry season — fleeting in most parts of the country but because we’re spoiled in Northern California fleeting but not so fast you blink and it’s over. Happily for me, because the cherry jam I made a few weeks ago (and canned) on the bride’s request for cherry jam for her wedding cake (with which I was thrilled to comply because I truly and sincerely love cherries almost as much as I love her and her betrothed) has now been carefully spread on top of the almond paste as the crowning layer filling in each tier. (Side note: if a recipe calls for ‘blanched almonds’ consider buying them already blanched. Easy but time consuming to do yourself. That’s a PSA from me to you.) And that means: no more of that delectable cherry jam.
So tomorrow morning I will get up earlyish and get myself to my farmers’ market where I shall load up on cherries (chard too, no doubt). I’ve so enjoyed doing small batches of jam this spring – so far: strawberry, cherry, rhubarb – and love looking up to see the little array on my shelves. We eat jam regularly but sparingly; once opened, a jar won’t disappear too quickly. This pleases me because it means some of those June jars will be savored in December – even later than that if I can manage it. And of course my beloved blackberries will burst into profusion in a few more months – along with huckleberries; together, the two make a delicious jam – so I’m stockpiling empty jars already in preparation.
After the market we’ll carefully place the cake tiers in the car, grab another coffee for the road, crank the classic rock, and head north for the coast. I’ll no doubt keep checking anxiously on the cake as we wind past Monte Rio (with a nod to Tom Waits, as always) and look forward to wearing a dress for the first time in a long time. We’ll wrap scarves round at the beach and then toast to the happy couple. We’ll eat cake. And when we get home — cherries.
Today was a bit of a whooooosh and I am teetering on the edge of exhaustion, but I wanted to put this recipe/inspiration up because if you have some time this weekend and access to cherries, I urge you to make jam. Or if jam’s not your thing, consider trying something else with cherries. ’tis the season, after all.
Again – jam is so personal so this is a fairly loose method, more guidelines than absolutes. I kept the sugar content extremely light, as the cherries I grabbed at my farmers’ market were lovely and sweet, and so the true flavor of the cherries came through in the finished product (i.e. not overshadowed by the sugar). I love how cherry jam doesn’t result in a smooth puree the way blackberry or strawberry might — much easier to smash the berries into more of a puree once they’ve cooked — because cherries keep their integrity even when cooked. Still, if you want a smoother jam, try pureeing the mixture after the cherries are well cooked and have released their juice.
Makes 6 cups of jam (or so)
2 pounds fresh cherries, washed, stemmed, and pitted (cherry pitter = love)
juice of one lemon
1/4-1/2 cup (or to taste) raw sugar, maple syrup, or honey
After you’ve pitted the cherries (I recommend listening to Gillian Welch or the Alison Krauss Pandora station while doing this), place them in a large bowl with the lemon juice and sugar, if using. Let stand about 10 minutes.
In a large heavy saucepan, place the cherries, lemon juice, and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook until cherries are thoroughly cooked and the jam begins to thicken. This may take up to 20-30 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jam jars and either seal/can or bring to room temperature and then store in the fridge. Jam should last up to 2 weeks if not canned and up to one year if canned.