Monday, July 16, 2007

Cherry Busy

Wouldn't you know it? I take one vacation day, and I haul myself out of bed at the usual time in order to spend the morning in the kitchen.

That's just the way I am, and despite a touch of sleep deprivation, I wouldn't change a thing!

Since I had two quarts of sweet cherries sitting in the fridge from Saturday's market outing, I knew I needed to spend time today doing something with them. I was so pleased with how my dried cherries turned out last weekend that I wanted to make more (since those will get used quickly in winter baking), so I halved and pitted one of the quarts and spread the halves on a lined baking sheet and tucked them in the oven.

Other than that, though, I decided to make a small batch of cherry jam. I've never made cherry jam before, and I had briefly considered Dear Reader Tina's suggestion of making cherry butter, but as the cherries cooked and reduced, I realized that I wouldn't get much if I made a fruit butter as opposed to a jam.

Once it had simmered down far enough, I added some local honey, a dash of ground cardamom, and a few drops of almond extract, then let it simmer a little longer while I fired up the hot water bath.

I started to set the big canner (on the right) on the burner, but when I took a closer look at the amount of jam in the pot, I decided to call my Dutch oven or "baby canner" into action to save time and energy.

(The more I educate myself on environmental issues related to food, the more I'm aware of my use of energy at home. Canning and drying my produce can use a fair amount of electricity and natural gas as well as water, but using a smaller pot, recycling the hot water into dishwater, and just being more efficient in the process overall really helps. Sharon over at Casaubon's Book has an excellent recent post about the energy used in food preservation, and home preservation still comes out on top. Read it!)

Anyway, once the jam had finished cooking, I filled a half-pint jar and a half-cup jar and ran them through the hot water bath for 10 minutes. And that little bit of foamy jam that I had skimmed off the top?

Well, someone's got to perform the obligatory quality control check, right?

The dried cherries will take a good portion of the rest of the day to finish drying, but at least I can take a breather for now before I start the rest of my vacation day cooking.

Looks like it will be a busy day!


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