Sunday, May 31, 2009


Up into the cherry tree
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad on foreign lands.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

On my way to pick the cherries, I came across (literally) this snake. I stepped over him before I saw him. I guess he was on his way to get the birds that get the cherries. It was lying so still that I think I thought it was a stick at first. Then I thought it was dead. But it was merely sunning itself in a very relaxed way in the driveway.

The cherry tree is in a neighbor's yard. They let me pick all I want, and sometimes they help me. The cherries are sour cherries; the sweet ones don't grow easily here.

I made a cherry-berry jam, with about half berries (blackberries and strawberries) and half sour cherries. I cooked it for about two hours before it gelled. My new jam recipe is: 2 quarts fruit and 2 cups of sugar, cook a long time slowly on low (about 2 hours); insert candy thermometer. When it gets to 208 degrees, it's probably done. Check by putting some on a cold plate and see if it gells.

This new recipe is liberating: you can make jam with pretty much anything you have. The original recipe was for 2 quarts of strawberries, but it seemed to work fine with other berries and cherries. It's not as sweet as the recipe in the Ball Blue Book or the Joy of Cooking, which is a good thing. The flavor is very intense, like "essence of strawberry" or "essence of cherry." Also, because you cook it a long time, the berries cook down a lot: 2 quarts of fruit makes 2 pints of jam, approximately, but sometimes less.

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