Wild Cherry Jam Conserve
Updated: Jul 15
Back from a weekend away in the UK and the weather was still all good - amazing. Just enough time to check on a group of wild cherry trees that I had been keeping a close eye on. I say cherry trees, but I had only ever seen one tree on one side of the hedge. I jumped the fence to get to the sunny side of the hedge and to my surprise there wasn’t one tree but four!
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Two of the wild cherry trees were laden with fruit that was perfectly ripe. The small red black fruits were weighing the branches down and the droopy leaves of the wild cherry gave away the fruity scarlet berries location.
Needless to say I greedily collected two thirds of a huge bowl worth and brought them home to begin work. Wild cherries are much smaller than normal sweet cherries and needless to say are to small for a traditional cherry pitter, but persist and they are ever so worth it! The amount I collected took just over four hours to pit and I still saved a few for some other recipes that I have up my sleeve too. Time to make the jam.
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Wild Cherry Jam Recipe
1 ½ kg of pitted wild cherries
1 ¾ kg of jam sugar (make sure it’s the type with the added Pectin)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 juniper berries
1 star anise
You’ll need a large saucepan and 4 or 5 sterilised jam jars too!
I know, I didn’t mention the spices and to tell you the truth they were an after thought of mine. This recipe I made following my nose and it’s the smells as the jam was cooking that led me to the additional ingredients.
Firstly place your pitted cherries in a large saucepan, you’ll need a saucepan with at least three times the volume of the cherries in order to cook this Jam. Then add the juice of a lemon and get a heat under the cherries. Meanwhile crush your Juniper berries to powder and them to the cherry mix. When the cherries come to the boil, add the star anise and hold the cherries at a simmer for around 15 minutes. About 5 minutes into the simmering, you’ll need to use your nose. Personally I only wanted a hint of star anise and didn’t want it as a dominant or indeed to be a recognisable taste, so when the mix becomes quite clearly perfumed with star anise remove it from the jam.
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Once the wild cherries are cooked through (but still whole), add the sugar and stir in. Now with the gas up to full heat the jam to boiling point and hold there until the bubbles that appear on the top can’t be stirred back into the jam (hold at that heat for four minutes). One final check to see if the jam is ready to place in its jars. Place a small amount of the jam on a cold plate, leave for 30 seconds and then using the spoon run it through the jam, the jam should crease and have started to set, if this happens you are ready to pot your jams into your clean jars.
The taste of this jam is hard to describe but I will try as it is extremely complex and very adult. Wild cherries are dark scarlet in colour and have a complex sweet and sour flavour. These complexities are added to by the very subtle background flavours of the star anise and Juniper berries that add a dark, mystical note to what would normally be an over sweet conserve. If ever there was a moody jam, this would be it, even the recipes that it conjured in my mind were sultry and dark, recipes created deep in the germanic Black Forests such as the very well known gateaux. It is in fact as a pairing with dark chocolate that I believe this would be best used, but hey it’s going to be good on anything even brilliant simply served on hot buttered toast or dark chocolate pancakes!
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