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Friday, 3 August 2012

Teita's Chat & Cherry Jam - Honest Simple Goodness

Home-made Black Cherry Jam - Honest Simple Goodness

"Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need."  - Khalil Gibran

Why a jam recipe in Ramadan? Because it is honest simple goodness! A quality that if we have more of then our palates will finally start tasting good food.

As I was in Amman this summer, visiting my Grandma, and while her guests were busy catching up, she called me to the kitchen. "I have something I want you to try." She said and brought out a spoon and a jar - you know the simple home-canning jars. "This is the best cherry jam you will ever taste" she declared. I dipped the spoon in the jar scooping out a cherry and ate! Gooey, chewy, with a thick caramel sauce consistency. Sweet, but not overly. Deep, bold and fruity. Explosive and juicy. With a sweet fruity after taste to ensure you have more!! All those qualities in just one bite!
In comparison with other cherry jams, there is complexity in the flavour, a depth that you do not get with most jams. Most jams are shallow in flavour, hitting your palate with a sugar rush first, then everything else follows. Not this one! This is so complex and bold with real cherry. There is not a hint of those artificial almost medicinal flavours. Honestly the best Cherry Jam I have ever tasted!

Home-made Cherry Jam - Gooey, chewy, deep, bold & fruity.

I was intrigued! So I asked her for the recipe. She looked at me, almost puzzled! "No recipe" she said. "Sometimes we need to be spontaneous in the kitchen. We don't always need recipes... This is exactly why I wanted you to taste this jam. Sit down, while I make tea." So we sat down sipping on tea, with a bowl of jam and some toasted pita bread. I, growing impatient. She, taking her time! We sipped, we ate!

When she finally spoke, she said: "I have noticed that everyone is always looking for very complicated recipes. My friends come over for lunch, dinner or even afternoon tea. They love the food, and ask me for the recipe. When I tell them it is simply this and that. They seem to not like it. 'Oh! That is very Simple' they tell me, like they have lost interest!" She sips on tea, I contemplate, we eat jam.

"If I need to add cherry flavour to fresh cherries..." she adds, "then why buy fresh cherries? Khalas add cherry flavour to caramelising sugar, along with red food colouring, put it in a jar and call it cherry Jam!" She sips, we eat jam, I contemplate some more.

Keep it honest: use real, seasonal and organic cherries, not cherry-replicating flavours

"Everyone tells me I have Nafas (Arabic word meaning can cook exquisite food), But what I really do is use fresh food and don't over complicate things. Keep it simple. This is the recipe. Not just in food, but in Life!" She said, then sipped, while I still contemplated.

I looked at her and smiled. I fully understood what she was saying, I could even somewhat relate to her frustration. I knew exactly what she was telling me. I love the sense of belonging. The sense that as my Teita (Arabic for Nana), she wants to pass on not just a recipe, but wisdom and advise. She really knew what I needed to hear. Funny how very few people understand you, just as they look into your eyes. Even when you haven't seen them in a long time. One look at you and they know what you need. I value and cherish these moments, and am telling you only she and I know what was behind the chat. However, I never ever told her, what was on my mind! I had noticed, at that time, I had ate a whole bowl-full of jam! I can say, it was that good!

Keep it Simple: Only Cherries & Sugar

I have decided to post this delicious jam because the goodness of it comes from the fresh black cherries, which are now in season. Nothing better than using seasonal fruits because they will never taste better. This recipe does not use any additives, no chemicals, no flavourings, no food colours, not even pectin! It is simply fresh, seasonal, organic black cherries and sugar. The whole confection is reliant on creating a natural syrup by coating the cherries with sugar, refrigerating overnight to allow the cherries to ooze out their natural juices, which when combined with the sugar create a syrup. Then the whole lot are cooked the next day to caramelise the sugar and result in a jam! Honest, Simple, Goodness...

Now you can flavour this jam with cloves or cinnamon if you like. But it is best as is. I decided to Keep it Simple. I have also included for you the most simple jar sterilising process.

Cooking the cherries and sugar
Here is how it's made....

Ramadan Recipe 13
Teita's Cherry Jam
Serve this delicious jam with toasted pita bread, scones, muffins, or cakes. 

You Need
1 Kg Black Cherries, halved and stones removed
3 Cups Sugar
(told you it was simple)

Place the halved and stoned cherries in a large bowl. Add the sugar, and mix to coat. Be gentle as to not squash the cherries, the pieces of cherry are where all the flavour is. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The natural juices of the cherry along with the sugar create a syrup as they soak overnight

The next day, place all in a large saucepan, and bring to a hard boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiled, lower the heat and leave to cook for 2 hours. Remove the scum (foam occasionally throughout as in picture 3 below).

Bring to rolling boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours skimming occasionally

The jam is ready when the consistency becomes sticky, and when a spoon test is done the jam will form a sheet-like film as in the figure below.

Jam Spoon test: When it is done the jam will form a sheet-like film 

While the jam is cooking, sterilise your jars. Simply fill 1/4 pot with water, place a clean sieve on top and bring to a boil. Place your jar opened and upside down as in picture above, and leave to steam for 10 minutes. The hot steam sterilises your jar. Using a clean kitchen towel, lift the sterilised jar, and close it with the steam in it. Do not wipe it dry. Keep it closed, until ready to use.

The simplest way to sterilise jars

When the jam is finished, open the sterilised jar, and get rid of the accumulating water, by simply tilting it and discarding the water. Pour the hot jam in the jar. Be very careful when working with any hot sugars - sugar burns are dangerous. Close the lid of the jar and leave to cool at room temperature. Consume within 6 months. Goodness!

Serving Suggestions

  • This jam pairs very well with cheese and is the perfect cheese platter condiment. It loves Emmental cheese, Brie, Camembert... But also goes super with aged cheddar cheese and blue cheese. 
  • Serve with plain scones or even savoury scones the flavours balance out each other. The same applies to muffins.
  • You can use this jam as filling for cakes. I have tried it and it works brilliantly with the Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake (use it instead of the filling) or Victoria Sandwich Cake (use it instead of strawberry Jam, and add whole cherries with stems instead of strawberries to garnish the top) or even with the Chocolate Mud Cake (instead of the fresh fruits, make 2 layers of this cake, fill with this cherry jam then cover all with ganache). Heavenly!
  • You can also use this jam as filling for doughnuts.

My post: Understanding Jams and Canning, will shed more light on jam-making, and sterilising jars for canning. Check it out if you like to learn more.

Sterilised Jam Jar ready to be filled with your Jam :)
I am posting this recipe and hoping that you can relate to the words, and that if you need to hear these words, like I did - in whatever context - that you will remember to 'Keep it simple" both in food and life. I hope you enjoyed reading today's post: the recipe and the story behind it. I look forward to your comments, and hearing what you think ;) Please sign your comments so I know who you are.

Don't forget to take photos of the recipes you carry out from this blog and share them with me for a chance to win the fabulous giveaways part of Dima's Kitchen Ramadan Special. The competition getting tight and the  ladies taking it to new levels! Check out the photos of their food here.

Don't forget to keep is simple this Ramadan, in food & in life
Ramadan Kareem