Friday, June 14, 2013

The cherries are saved and I can CAN!

Yesterday evening started out bad: I left my office only to find that my trucky-truck was gone. Turns out it was moved to make way for some emergency road construction, and I swear there was NOT a notice on the meters when I parked at 7 a.m. Luckily, after 20 minutes of phone tree hell with the DC DMV, I learned that the car had not been towed to some remote lot in Mordor, but was in fact right around the corner. Along with parking tickets for $150. Awesome.

Racing to outrun the derecho and its predicted mayhem, I made it home a bit later than anticipated and started immediately on my quest to preserve The Cherries.

Five pounds!
Save us!

I spent my free moments yesterday trying to decide what the most expedient way would be to preserve the cherries before they started moldering. Between my research and the good advice of friends like Cherry Lane, I decided to freeze a bunch and make sour cherry jam. And can that jam.

Freezing cherries turns out to be a really simple, straightforward process: wash and pit the cherries, layer them on parchment on a cookie sheet, put them in the freezer till they're solid, then toss in a freezer bag. It seemed too easy to work, but lo and behold, I've now got a gallon bag of frozen sour cherries in my freezer. Neat!

Well, except for the pitting part. "Neat" is not a word you could use to describe that process. Nor is "speedy."

Also amazingly tedious.
Pitting is a bloody affair.
 What I was most excited and trepidatious about, however, was making jam--not the jam-making per se, but the canning part. Like quilting, canning is a skill I've long wanted to master. Like quilting, I bought the requisite tools and instructions an embarrassing number of years ago. And as with quilting, the canning tools and books have been examined and read many times... and never used. (My quilting is a running joke with my mother.)

This time I was determined, though. And inspired not a little bit by Jorge Garcia's (Hurley from Lost) recent first canning experience described on his blog. So I got out the canner Mom gave me, and the jars I bought last year, and my tongs and canning funnel and lid lifter I bought mumble mumble years ago, and got to work.

After exhaustive searching in books and the Internet, I chose this recipe for its simplicity (just cherries and sugar) and detail (plus the blogger had a nice Canning 101 page). It was a good choice, because the jam behaved just as the recipe described, right down to the successful wrinkle test that lets you know your jam is setting.

Look out, it boils up fast!
Wish you could have smelled this; oh so good.
Making the jam itself, however, wasn't the stressful part of this process. No, the mysteries of canning were what kept me on edge until the end of the show. Now I've been through it, though, and I can report I survived, learned, and will definitely do this again. Sterilizing the jars, the processing: not the big fright I feared, although I confess I was pretty anxious this first time, all the way through). I will probably post about what I learned, if only to have notes for myself to refer to the next time--possibly tomorrow if there are still local strawberries at the farmers' market.

The end result: I admit it doesn't look that impressive. A pint and a half of jam, one and a half little jars. But they both sealed within minutes of processing, and those little POPS made all the effort and worry worthwhile. This morning, I'm still pretty excited and proud of myself. Maybe I should be getting out that quilting book next.

Six cups of cherries equals three cups of jam.
Ta da!

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