Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Blessings and Seasonal Photo a Day in May…

Ecclesiastes Quote
     Sundays are so cathartic.  It really is the recharge I need every week, its my chance to focus on what I have done and where I am headed in life. 

    Today’s photo prompt is the word seasonal, two very different things always come to mind when I think of that word.  I think of one of my favorite scriptures in Ecclesiastes, and I think of seasonal farmers markets.  Today as I sat in church I was reminded of some very distinct memories that marry both of those ideas.
     Life has its stages and season, right now I am definitely in a learning and growing season.  One of the times in my life I feel like I was learning and growing the most was when I was serving as a missionary for my church, it was an amazing experience and a great blessing on my life.  I learned so much during this time, and it definitely has strengthened me as a person.
     Where I served my mission it was in the middle of farm country, as my companion and I walked from visit to visit we saw so many different crops, apples, cherries, potatoes, pear,corn, wheat, and so much more.  Let me tell you the farm wives of that area most definitely knew how to cook!  I loved how those women lived off of the bounty of the crops they grew, they truly understood seasonal cooking and farm to table cooking.
     As I would go into homes to visit something I loved was the preserves that these sweet families would share with us.  Fresh bread with homemade preserves will always be a favorite snack of mine.  I tried the creaminess of an apple butter, or the comfort of strawberry jam, or the sweet tang of apricot jam.  I tried them all, but something I fell in love with was cherry jam.
     Several years ago I was feeling a bit homesick for my mission and was walking through a farmers market and decided to buy a couple pounds of cherries to make myself a treat.  I decided I was going to make sour cherry jam.  I decided to try David Lebovitz’s no recipe cherry jam.  I had heard of this recipe for years, but I never tried it because to be honest the no-recipe format was a bit off-putting to me.  I had made jam so many times but I always used a recipe, you can’t just wing it on jam, or can you?  I figured I would give it a whirl since to be honest any recipe that I have tried of his I have absolutely loved!

     No-Recipe Cherry Jam      

     David Lebovitz       

     1. buy as many cherries as you feel like pitting.  Usually I have the patience for about 3 pounds, but it’s up to you. Figure one pound of cherries will make one good-sized jar of jam. Plump, dark Bing cherries work really well, although Burlats are good, and if you can find sour cherries, your jam will rock.       

     2. Wear something red. Rinse the cherries and remove the stems. Using a cherry pitter, pit the cherries. Make sure to remove all the pits. Chop about 3/4ths of them into smaller pieces, but not too small. Leave some cherries whole so people can see later on how hard you worked pitting real cherries. If you leave too many whole ones, they’ll tumble off your toast.           

     3. Cook the cherries in a large nonreactive stockpot. It should be pretty big since the juices bubble up. Add the zest and juice of one or two fresh lemons. Lemon juice adds pectin as well as acidity, and will help the jam gel later on.       

     4. Cook the cherries, stirring once in a while with a heatproof spatula, until they’re wilted and completely soft, which may take about 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you give them. Aren’t they beautiful, all juicy and red?       

     5. Once they’re cooked, measure out how many cherries you have (including the juice.) Use 3/4 of the amount of sugar. For example if you have 4 cups of cooked cherry matter, add 3 cups of sugar. It may seem like a lot, but that amount of sugar is necessary to keep the jam from spoilage.       

     6. Stir the sugar and the cherries in the pot and cook over moderate-to-high heat. The best jam is cooked quickly. While it’s cooking, put a small white plate in the freezer. Remain vigilant and stir the fruit often with a heatproof utensil. (Wouldn’t it be a shame to burn it at this point?) Scrape the bottom of the pot as you stir as well.       

     7. Once the bubbles subside and the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel, (it will coat the spatula in a clear, thick-ish, jelly-like layer, but not too thick) turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it’s done.           

    If not, cook it some more, turn off the heat, and test it again. If you overcook your jam, the sugar will caramelize and it won’t taste good and there’s nothing you can do. Better to undercook it, test it, then cook it some more.
     Once it’s done and gelled, add a few drops of almond extract, but not too much, or it will taste like a cheap Italian cake. Ladle the warm jam into clean jars and cover. Cool at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator where it will keep for several months.

     I have to admit I love this whole no recipe idea for jam after all!  After I made it for the first time several years ago I have made it time and time again, and this has become my go to no recipe "recipe" for cherry jam!  I have made it time and time again to share with my family and friends, I wish I could take credit for the "recipe", but the credit is his.  Regardless its a gift that everyone enjoys!

     So make some for yourself, slather a piece of bread and sit back and enjoy whatever season of life you are in.  As for me I know I need the reminders to learn from every season I am in, and to grow from the twists and turns that life has to throw my way.

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