Friday, December 4, 2009

Didn't your mother ever tell you...

That too many cherries will give you a tummy ache?!

Mine did – but that didn’t stop me gorging myself on kilos of them last weekend when we went cherry and berry picking in Silvan, near the Dandenongs, about 45 minutes outside of Melbourne.

We paid $7 entry to cover the cherries that we would eat whilst picking (oh boy did I make sure I got my money’s worth), were handed a bucket and pointed in the direction of heavily fruit-laden cherry trees at the end of the track.

Ever wondered why cherries are so bloody expensive? It’s because picking them is a seriously labour intensive activity! It takes a loooong time to fill 2 buckets with cherries, especially if like me, you adopt the “one for you, one for me” method of picking.

After the cherries came the blackberries and raspberries. What a revelation! What amazing, beautiful, tasty little morsels! I hate to sound so much like an inner-city girl, but seeing those deep red berries peeking out from behind the bushy leaves, looking like, well, flowers, and then popping them in your mouth and realising that it’s actually a raspberry, like, the same thing that comes in punnets at the supermarket seemed a little ridiculous but very wonderful!

We headed home with our bountiful bounty, stuffing a few more cherries and berries into my mouth on the way. Once home, I had rolled around on the floor for a while emitting cherry-tummy-ache induced moans and groans, and then decided that 7kg of fruit is too much for regular human consumption. There was only one thing for it – a jam session! After a quick tribute to Bob Marley, we got down to business: the very messy business of pitting cherries and the very dangerous business of sterilising jars.

Jam is really an incredibly easy thing to make – it’s really just equal quantities of fruit and sugar, juice of a lemon or two (and if it’s fruit without a lot of natural pectin – like cherries) a bit of extra pectin or jamsetta which you can easily pick up from the supermarket.

To quote my fellow jammer, “jam-making is an easy but fraught process” – so I’ve taken lots of photos for you to follow.

Home-made jam is an entirely different thing to supermarket jam! For one thing, it tastes like fruit rather than sugar, for another it's totally natural and therefore healthy ;) - so what are you waiting for? Don an apron, boil some jars, and get jamming!

For cherries, and all stone fruit the first step is to pit all the fruit. With cherries this can be a very messy business. I was lucky enough to be using an olive pitter which made life much easier, nevertheless it took about an hour to pit 3kg of cherries!

Next, throw all the fruit in the biggest pot you have along with an equal quantity of sugar - so we had 3kg of pitted cherries and 3kg of white sugar.

Put the pot onto a very low heat - you don't want the sugar to burn at all. Let the whole thing heat up very very slowly, stirring occasionally. The sugar will begin to dissolve and the cherries to release juices so it will start looking delicious and syrupy. At this stage, squeeze in some lemon juice - we used 2 lemons.

Continue to heat it all up, stirring to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom and eventually the mixture will begin to hubble and bubble. At this stage, if you're using jamsetta/extra pectin, throw it in. Also, you'll find that the boiling produces a fair bit of foamy "scum" that rises to the top. Even though for us it was a hot pink foam that looked quite delicious, we skimmed it off because that's what you're meant to do when you're jamming.

To test if the jam is ready, splodge a bit on a plate and pop it in the freezer. If, after about 30secs the jam comes out set (no longer liquid but not quite a solid) your jam is ready. And so begins the dangerous part!

Gently and carefully remove all the jars that you've been sterilizing (by boiling on the stove for a while) from the hot water and place on a heat-proof surface.

At this stage you want to act as quickly as possible to make sure the jars are still hot and sterile when you pop the jam in. Quickly and carefully ladle the jam into the jars and wearing gloves or using a couple of tea towels, screw the jar lids on tightly.

Give the jars a good clean (because they'll inevitably get disgustingly sticky) and leave them on the benchtop to cool over night.

And taadaa - Jam!

Enjoy on toast, in baking, from a spoon or any other usual jam enjoyment activities which I will leave up to your imagination.


  1. Wow - right from the tree to the jar! I bet it's delicious.

  2. oohh, homemade jam.., let me know if you having any trouble finishing those jars of jam.. ;)

  3. Cindy - only the ones that managed to escape my mouth made it into the jar! Seriously couldn't even enjoy fresh cherries this weekend, a whole week later! I'm scarred for life... but the jam is delicious!

    Amanda - We made 16 jars of jam and the offers to lighten the load are coming thick and fast! I reckon we'll be lucky if we're left with one or two for ourselves!!! ;)