Foodie In Training

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jam Session: It's all about timing

One of my favorite food blogs is Amateur Gourmet. You may have seen the link on our blog and I definitely recommend checking it out. Adam Roberts is the blogger and he documents his cooking adventures and most recently his new gig on the Food Network.  He had a great post a few weeks ago about making jam and he made it seem so easy.  Easy enough for me to want to attempt it! 
So when I was at Findlay Market in Cincinnati a few weekends ago and there were beautiful cherries at the market for very cheap - like 2 lbs. for $5 cheap - I had to buy them and instantly thought of using them to make jam.  So the next day my friend Mo came over and helped me make cherry jam.  To make this quicker and easier I decided to buy a cherry pitter.  What a great idea!  Who knew for like $11 you could have such a fun kitchen tool!   The pitter stabs into the cherry pit and shoots it out the bottom...and also creates a kind of gory splash of cherry juice that resembles a blood bath.  So Mo was in charge of pitting the cherry's while I sterilized the jars.  I decided to do what Adam did when he made jam and I cleaned the jars with soap and water and then put them in a large pot filled with water and brought the water to a boil to sterilize. 
When Mo was done pitting all of the cherries I roughly chopped them and put them in a large pot and cooked them on medium to high heat with the zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon.  This is one of the instances in jam making when it's all about timing.  We cooked the cherries until they released their juices and became sloshy.   The smell was amazing!  An intensely sweet cherry aroma filled my tiny kitchen and we were getting excited.  Once the cherries are sloshy, it's time to measure how much cherry slosh we had because that is how you know how much sugar you need.  
I'm not much of a mathematician but this is pretty easy. If I can figure it out..you can. You measure the cherry slosh and you multiply that by 3/4.  We had about 2 1/2 cups of cherry slosh and after we dumped the slosh back in to the pot (sounds appetizing right..sorry for my choice of words) we added about 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  We cooked the cherry slosh and sugar over medium heat and this part is where timing is crucial.  As the cherries and sugar cook it will begin to bubble up and foam and you have to stir often so it doesn't burn on the bottom.  
I was nervous about overcooking it so we tested the jam way to early, but I'm glad we did because you can always put jam back on the heat to cook if it needs more time, but you can't save burnt, overcooked jam. To test, it's really simple. At the beginning of the jam-making process put a small plate in to the freezer and when you are ready to test, put a drizzle of jam on to the cold plate.  Wait for it to set and then push the circle of jam and if it wrinkles when you push it, it is ready.  If it's slippery and gooey still, put it back on the heat and keep stirring. 
Since we cooked it on medium heat, we cooked the jam for about 15-20 minutes before it was ready.  Once the jam was ready we ladled it in to the jars and let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge.  
The jam turned out really tasty!! Next time I am going to chop the cherries a little smaller but other than that the flavors are great.  I've gotten some raised eyebrows and giggles when I told friends and family I made jam.  My sister had the best comment though..she called while I was making the jam and when I told her what I was doing she said "God Erin what else you are doing, churning butter?"  haha..we are so different it's funny. :)   Making jam was so easy I definitely want to make it again and with other fruits.   It's definitely better than my Smucker's jam I've bought before and they also make great gifts!


Cookie~mom said...

The jam looks wonderful Erin and Mo! I'm looking forward to tasting it! :)

mallory said...

erin! that jam looks wonderful and the little jars are so cute! i enjoy reading about your cooking!!

ps...that is a great new picture of you on here! :)