I have now finished as the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market Manager and yesterday as they say ‘Was the first day of the rest of my life’ and it’s time to sit back for a little while and think about what I am going to do going forward – the one thing I do know is that it will be something to do with food, so while I am thinking about it, it is in to my kitchen to start making Christmas gifts and trying and testing some of the recipes I have not got to yet.
My farewell gift from the stallholders at the markets was a generous selection of Hawke’s Bay produce and artisan products, so first up yesterday morning was making sure none of the produce went to waste.
The produce included several large punnets of cherries and while we had eaten our way through some of them the rest have been made into Cherry and Kirsch Jam – there wasn’t a great quantity but being made with lovely Hawke’s Bay cherries it is pretty special.
Making jam is a great way to use up an abundance of seasonal fruit and the simplest jams consist of fruit, sugar and maybe lemon juice, depending on how much natural pectin is in the fruit you are using. Pectin naturally occurs in most fruits and is the substance which helps jams and marmalades set – the amount of naturally occurring pectin in fruit varies and if making jam with a fruit that is low in pectin adding lemon juice helps ensure the jam sets. Cherries are one of the fruits which are low in pectin, adding lemon juice which is an acid helps to develop the pectin which helps to set the jam.
Sugar is also an important ingredient in jam, it helps with setting and acts as preservative. Too little or too much sugar usually means the jam will not set and in the case of too little it will not keep. Too much sugar and the jam will also be sticky and too sweet. Jams should contain half to two-thirds by weight of sugar – I usually measure the quantity of cooked fruit pulp and add an equal quantity of sugar and seldom have trouble with setting.
There are a number of methods to test the set of jam – I usually use a combination of the flake test and plate test – the flake test to give me an idea of when the jam is coming to setting point and the plate test to confirm. For the flake test allow some of the jam to drip from the spoon and when it no longer runs off the spoon but rather forms larger drips it is a good indication that the preserve has reached setting, at this stage I take the pan off the heat and place a small amount of jam on a saucer which has chilled in the freezer for a few minutes (3-4 minutes), then return to the freezer for another 3-4 minutes after which if you can run you finger through the jam and it leaves a path setting point has been reached. If setting has not been reached return pan to heat for a further 5 minutes, then test again.
Jars used for any preserves must be cleaned and steriled – in the home kitchen the easiest way to do this is to put them through the dishwasher, then while making the preserve place the jars upside down in a low oven – pour hot preserve in hot jars and cover while still hot.
The basic method I follow for jam making is to put the prepared fruit into a preserving pan – with or without a small amount of water depending on the juiciness of the fruit – bring to the boil and boil until the fruit is tender. Measure the fruit pulp, add an equal quantity of warm sugar, return to heat, bring back to the boil and boil until setting point is reached.
There is some equipment which makes home preserving easier. I think a preserving or jam pan is a must for home preserving and if you a planning on making jams, jellies, marmalades, relishes, chutneys and pickles on a regular basis it certainly makes the process easier. The difference between a preserving pan and an ordinary large saucepan is the shape of pan which is wider at the top than the base which helps with faster evaporation. The pan should also be heavy based and can be made from a variety of materials, my current preserving pan is stainless steel. Another useful piece of equipment a wide neck funnel – this allows for easy filling of jars with the wide neck allow chunks of fruit to flow through.
Cherry and Kirsch Jam
I had approximately 800g of un-pitted cherries which made about 4 cups of jam. If you do not have muslin use a clean chux cloth – place the pits on the chux cloth and tie with a piece of string to form a bag – the pits of the cherries contain additional pectin.
ripe fresh cherries, pitted – stones reserved and tied in a muslin bag
juice 1 lemon
1 tbsp kirsch
1 Place pitted cherries, lemon juice and bag of pits in a preserving pan. Bring to the boil and boil for 20-30 minutes or until fruit is tender.
2 Remove pan from heat. Remove muslin bag containing pits and discard. Measure fruit pulp and for each cup of pulp add 1 cup of warm sugar.
3 Return pan to heat, bring back to the boil and cook until mixture sets when tested. Stir in kirsch. Pour jam into clean, warm, sterilised jars and seal.
Recipe and information by Rachel Blackmore