…my summer jam is really made from all these things.  (And a lot less likely to leave you hung over and robbed of your silver spurs!)

The very first year the cherry tree in the front yard yielded fruit – honestly edible fruit, and not the kind you leave for the birds to peck at – I was thrilled.  This isn’t exactly the Okanagan, so this was a novelty to me, one that elicited fantasies of making jam and…well, I didn’t make it much past jam.  And when I first tried it using a Jell-o jam recipe a couple of years ago, the results weren’t great.  (What did I expect?  Jell-o is not and will never be a proper substitute for pectin.)

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It’s not a huge tree, but it’s got spirit and bursts forth with cherries like it’s going through some sort of weird tree puberty.

Last year yielded another large crop.  Since the idea of “real” canning terrifies me and has me convinced I’ll give someone botulism, I looked for a recipe for freezer jam, and found this.  Even though the recipe specifically calls for sweet cherries, it works wonderfully with my tart little harvest, too.  It’s remarkably similar to the one found inside the Certo package, with the small addition of microwaving the fruit-and-sugar mixture for a few minutes to increase the saturation point and help the sugar dissolve for non-grainy jam.  (There’s something a little disturbing about a recipe using so much sugar that the fruit can’t absorb it all on its own, but even the Certo box calls for the same amount.  In any case, that brief heating works like a charm.)

And, sure, the cherry jam was good, but I sighed that I wished I had my late grandmother’s recipe for strawberry jam.  Hers was the best, bar none, and I had spent the entirety of this millennium to date without tasting it.

“She just used the recipe from the Certo box,” my dad pointed out.  Wait.  The same recipe that I had just more-or-less used with great success?  “The very same.”  Suddenly, memories of her retrieving a new jar from the freezer, not the pantry/basement flitted past my mind’s eye.  I could have been enjoying this stuff for the past 15-plus years.

It was past strawberry season when I had that epiphany, but this year, there was no way I was going to miss out again.  Farmers’ markets may or may not be a giant rip-off (case in point: the cherries that proliferate unbidden in the front yard cost $5.49/lb at the market, and they’re tiny and mostly pit, and tart to boot), but there’s no denying that fresh, local strawberries taste only about a million times better than their pale, flavourless California cousins.  It was a challenge to not eat them all before I could puree and mix and jar them.

But I managed it, and was rewarded with this:

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Keepin’ it real with mismatched and repurposed jars, there – yet another perk to freezer jam.  Even tasting the mixture as I went along to make sure the sugar was dissolved was like a trip down memory lane.

Of course, it’s hard to justify spending $7.49/pint and not use the fruit you can get for free, right?

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The freezer is full of unlabelled reddish jars now.  But don’t worry; I can tell them apart.

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(Editor’s note: I could have sworn the line, “I can’t see the difference.  Can you see the difference?” was from some sort of margarine ad, but a quick Google search confirms it’s ABC laundry detergent.  The more you know!)

I still had half a bucket full of cherries after the jam, so I baked the Bourbon Cherry Crisp from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Warm from the oven, it was a bit like a cherryish hot and sour soup.  But ah, at room temperature – heaven on Earth!  The topping is crisp and lovely, and the sliced almonds complement the fruit perfectly.  I’ve still got some cherries in the freezer, pitted and ready to go, so a second batch may be in order.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

For oh, years and years, I had ignored the random cherry-producing plant (logic would suggest it’s a tree, but it really doesn’t look tree-like) in the front yard.  It never really seemed to yield that much fruit, just a smattering that would be left for the birds.  Somehow, it decided to make up for lost time this year, and its branches became so loaded with cherries that it became impossible to weed-whack underneath as the sheer weight made the lower branches sag right to ground level.

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And that’s not all of them!  That front pail was full, and you can’t see the extra-large mop bucket likewise full on the bottom shelf of the fridge.  While they’re certainly edible, they’re tart as all get-out, which rather curbed the urge to try to snack on them unadorned (imagine trying to eat a cranberry straight up: not vile, but not something anybody ever does).

I had tossed around the idea of making Cherry Mountain Cake, a recipe given to me by one of the underwriters that makes for a spectacular and show-stopping dessert.  The logistical headache or storing the finished product, however, quickly struck that from my list.  Maybe I could preserve them somehow…

Full confession: I was a Jam Virgin.  I’ve always loved the idea of turning summer-fresh fruit into a lovely homemade spread to be enjoyed year-round, but it was an intimidating prospect.  Canners!  Water baths!  Making sure a tight seal is formed so you don’t inadvertently poison your lucky test subjects with botulism!  No, I needed something simple; maybe a freezer jam of sorts.  And so I happened upon this recipe.

What I Liked

  1. It was really, really simple.  If you have a pot and a spoon, you can make this.
  2. It’s a cheap recipe.  Granted, I got the cherries for free, and all I had to buy was the jelly powder in place of pectin.  Risk vs. reward ratio is excellent on this one.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. It’s so simple that it leaves out some really important information.  Cook for 15 minutes?  Okay, but at what heat?  Also, if your fruit is exceptionally juicy, do you have to adjust/eliminate the water, or increase the jelly powder?  Or do you drain the fruit?
  2. It’s sweeeeeet.  Crazy sweet.  I started out with tart fruit, and I find it sweet – I can’t imagine what a version made with a naturally sweeter base would taste like.

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Partway through the fifteen minutes of unspecific cooking.

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“Jarred”, and ready to eat-or-freeze.  Since the motto of simplistic jams the world over appears to be “use whatever containers you want, just leave me alone”, I opted for the sturdy yet versatile number seen above.  I had no idea if it was going to turn out, and I figured if it didn’t, I could at least wash these babies out and use them for something else; the last thing I wanted was to be stuck with a bunch of breakable Mason jars I’d never wind up using again.

It didn’t firm up quite the way I had hoped (and naturally, the recipe didn’t indicate what sort of consistency it should have or how long it should take to set).  But…it’s not completely liquid, either, which I consider a half-victory.

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It spreads nicely and pairs excellently with peanut butter.  Spills are best prevented by holding one’s bagel completely level.  And hey, it’s tasty!

Has anyone ever tried a recipe like this?

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Happy Canada Day!

July 1, 2016

I think the name says it all – and I hope everyone is enjoying the day off!  (I know I am.)

I knew I wanted to bake something, but the question was: “What?”  I didn’t want to mess around with Nanaimo bars and all their layers, and butter tarts evoked a “been-there-done-that” response in me.

Ultimately, I decided on this:

Cake 1

I’ve always been drawn to those American flag cakes done with blueberries and strawberries, but knew if I tried that I’d wind up with a terribly unbalanced fruit load, with some slices being covered in berries and others with none at all (and my poor maple leaf would likely come out looking all Picasso-esque).  Some simple coloured sugar made an excellent substitution, because who cares if they get or don’t get a little sugar?  It’s strictly decorative, with no real effect on the flavour of the cake.

But make no mistake; this is no ordinary cake with a handful of sugar tossed artfully on top.

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Ta-dah!  Poke cake!  Little rivulets of cherry Jell-o run through it, livening up the otherwise basic white cake considerably.  The test audience seems to approve wholeheartedly.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy long weekend – thanks for looking!

Flowers for…spring?

March 23, 2014

Sure…”spring”.  There are still snowdrifts up to my head in some places, but hey, I firmly believe that one day it will melt.  Until that happens, I’ll have to content myself with a garden of cupcake roses.

Cupcake Roses

These are the vanilla cupcakes from (of course) Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and I jazzed up vanilla buttercream icing by adding a package of cherry Kool-Aid to the mix.  Fun fact: it’s more tart than you might expect, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  It keeps the finished product from being too sweet.  And instead of my usual outside-in piping, ending in a peak of frosting in the centre, I piped from the inside out, creating a vaguely rose-y look.

It almost makes me forget about the snow…

…c-o-l-a, cola…

This week’s baking endeavour was inspired by The Brown Eyed Baker, and her recipe for Cherry Coke Float Cupcakes.  My take on this is a somewhat modified version of her recipe; besides the no-eggs thing, whipped topping doesn’t really lend itself well to storing completed cupcakes, so I made a maraschino cherry juice-laced buttercream frosting to help carry the cherry theme through.

They turned out well, meaning that my beta test group is still alive and walking around – and technically, they’re fine; everything a cupcake should be – but I’m somewhat disappointed by the lack of Coke flavour, considering there’s Coke in both the cake batter and a light glaze underneath the frosting that served only to make my cooling racks and kitchen table sticky.

I suppose Coca-Cola syrup, the kind they use for fountain drinks, might provide a more concentrated flavour, or cola extract, if such a thing exists; however, if I do something like these again, I could see making my basic chocolate cupcake recipe instead and turning them into bona fide Black Forest cupcakes.  But…as a sweet dessert, they’re perfectly acceptable.

Happy Victoria Day, everyone!