Sunday, June 28, 2009

the mysterious case of the chill-chest cherry jam

He who likes cherries soon learns to climb. ~ German Proverb


When I read the post about making Freezer Jam by those two southern boys, Clay and Zach at The Bitten Word I knew that I had to try this method of making jam

The recipe appeared easy enough and looked so yummy.
This method seemed perfect to make in small batches as the each new seasonal fruits arrives at the Farm Market.

I dashed off to my local Farmers Market bright and early this morning. I knew that there would be fresh picked cherries and strawberries from a neighboring farm, perfect for this recipe.

I scored a quart of strawberries, a quart of beautiful dark Michigan cherries and a pint of Rainier Cherries and decided that the beautiful cherries were just the thing for this jam recipe.

I referenced the recipe posted on The Bitten Word: recipe for freezer jam, which I also found to be included in the box of Pectin pouches. I followed the recipe to the letter, measuring and timing exactly. I ladled my cherry mixture into a jar, set it out on the kitchen counter as directed and left the house for the day..

When I retuned about 8 hours later, I was not happy to see what was happening in my blue Ball jar. The pectin was congealed and pink and had separated form the cherries and the dark cherry liquid. It looked like a pink monster hibernating in my Ball jar.

Yikes…!

I don’t know what went wrong, but I was hoping that I could figure out how to tame thie pink monster or else this would be an expensive mistake.
(In hind sight, I should have photogtaphed the monster in the Ball jar...lol..
So sorry. I was a bit flustered and just dove in to repair the mess.)


Remembering my what I had read in Harold McGee’s classic book On Food and Cooking, as fruit is heated to near the boil, the pectin is shaken loose from the cell walls and released into the plant juice and water. The sugar that is added to the recipe is hydroscopic (attracts water) pulls water away from the natural pectins so they can bond again. Also evaporating some of the liquid through a boil will bring the natural fruit pectin and the added pectin closer together to form a web-like structure that will result in a thick consistency.

Sorry to go all science-nerd on you, but when I cook I like to understand the scientific processes that occur. That knowledge helps to be a better cook than just following a recipe.


So it made culinary sense to followed the advice given by Zach to another commenter on The Bitten Word. I decanted the congealed failed mixture in to a pot and gently and very slowly boiled it down for about ½ hour, keeping the temperature just under a boil and stirred every few minutes.

The color of the congealed jam-in-progress was also a rather unattractive, sort of a Hello-Kitty-Pink. I added about one ounce of fruity Merlot to give it a deep rich dark red color. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Hello-Kitty-Pink on a little girl’s lunchbox, but not in my jam.) After the alcohol cooked off during the half-hour, the wine taste was not discernable and deeper color looked just right.


I let the mixture cool and retuned it to a freshly sterilized jar, capped it and let it cool on my counter until bedtime (approximately 5 hours) and then put the jar in the refrigerator overnight.
Early this morning I so pleasantly surprised to discover that that the jam had set to a dense “jammy” consistency. It spooned up nicely to my mouth and had a deep, dark, rich flavor and an unctuous mouth feel. For breakfast, I made gluten-free pancakes and the chill-chest cherry jam was a perfect topping.

So what I thought was a gloppy disaster, with the advice of my friends at The Bitten Word and the sound food-science advice of Harold McGee, all is well in my chill-chest today. A big merci beaucoup to all…

12 comments:

Mise En Place said...

Yay, food-science saves the day!

Despite the trouble, it looks to be a tasty treat. :)

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

I concur, Lisa...yippee for food science...!
It saved the day and my expensive ingredients.

Merci beaucoup for your kind comment as always.
Bisous...

Peter said...

Bravo! How many hours of efforts? Yes, we are still in the cherry season, but I'm concentrating on the berries as they are! I should of course think about the after-season, but...

Zach said...

Your photos are gorgeous! Sorry the jam didn't set right the first time, but it looks like the results were worth the work!

jeanette, mistress of longears said...

Harold to the rescue! i adore his books and refer to them often. Your jam looks sooo great!

sue said...

Oh, wow--that sounds delicious. I will have to give that a try, and if I do, I'll keep this information right in front of me, so you can save the day if I have a disaster! It really looks great! I like your wine idea.

5 Star Foodie said...

I'm glad it turned out after all! Sounds delicious with pancakes!

Camera Crazy said...

I wish I shared your passion for understanding the science of things...the pictures are so inviting..I love cherries. The blog header is brilliant!

MaddyLane Designs said...

OOooOooo So delicious Marie, your captures are by far the most exquisite, uhhmmmm you make everything look so good. I hope these are being published in magazines...their are most outstanding, bravo, hugs!

Terence said...

Lovely 4th of July image.

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois for all these generous comments...
Science to the rescue indeed...

Salut Maddy...you are so hopeful for me. I hope that magazines will pick up my images sometime soon...
I need a job badly.

Merci beaucoup for all your visits and comments...each and every one means a great deal to me.

Anonymous said...

Rather cool blog you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.