Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Tart Cherry Jam

I clocked out from work for an hour this week and ran down to the local orchard to pick up a few pounds of tart cherries. We also went as a family to pick a few, but the work is really too tedious for the wife and munchkin to do for long. We got less than half as much as a family as I was able to get by myself the day before. All told we had close to 10lbs of the little fellas, and there was plenty of cooking to do.

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The first recipe I wanted to make was a batch of Tart Cherry Jam. I also wanted to make a 50/50 Cherry Jam, with a combination of both tart and sweet cherries, but I haven’t been able to find any good domestic sweet cherries for a price I’m willing to pay. For today, It’s a straight-forward recipe, based on the “Morello Cherry” recipe from Mes Confitures. I don’t think the cherries I get locally are Morellos, but they’re close enough for my purposes [1].

Tart Cherry Jam

  • 2.25 lbs stemmed and pitted tart cherries (2.75
  • 3.25 cup sugar [2]
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 0.5 bag low-sugar pectin

Give the cherries a rough chop. Mix the cherries, sugar and lemon juice together in a large bowl and allow to macerate together for an hour or more. Move the mixture into a pot over medium heat until it just starts simmering. Remove from heat, put the mixture in a glass or ceramic bowl, and refrigerate overnight.

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Next day, strain the cherry mixture over a pot to collect the syrup. Add the pectin (add a little extra sugar if you need, to reduce clumping). Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously. Boil for 5 minutes or so. Add the cherry bits and bring to a boil again. Boil for 1 minute. Ladle into prepared jars with 0.5 inch headspace, and process in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes.

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Results

Despite the name, this jam is anything but “tart”. Did you see how much sugar I put in there? I’m going into diabetic shock just proof-reading the recipe. It actually tastes, as anybody would expect, a heck of a lot like a tart cherry pie. The set, for the most part, seems good. Some jars seem to have set up a little bit better than others. Next time I might be able to cook the syrup down a little bit more and add a bit more pectin to firm it up a little better. With the amount of sugar I’m using, adding a bit more pectin shouldn’t affect the taste too much.

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Notes

  1. Wikipedia claims there are two varieties of tart cherry: Morello (dark red) and Amarelle (lighter red). If those are my only two options, the ones we got are definitely Amarelles.
  2. We can probably use a little bit less sugar next time, but these cherries are so tart that it’s hard to know how little sugar we can get away with and still have the jam be pleasant to eat.


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Small Batch Chicken Broth

To give the pressure canner a quick workout, I decided to make a small batch of chicken broth. We picked up a pack of 4 bone-in split breast chicken breasts, and we had to use them up quick. I butchered them up, and got straight to cooking. The bones and some other vegetables we had laying around went into a pot to make some broth. Then I tossed the meat into a crockpot to make some shredded chicken for easy meals. I’ll include those recipes later.

Chicken Broth

I’ve already covered this recipe, in general, so I’m only going to give some of the particulars today.

  • 4 split chicken breasts, or equivalent amount of other chicken parts, meat and excess skin and fat removed [1]
  • 1 Onion, skinned and quartered
  • 4 little cloves of garlic, skinned [2]
  • 6 Sticks of Celery, rinsed  [3]
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Various herbs and seasonings (fresh-crushed black pepper, dash of celery seed, dash of whole dried rosemary leaves, some sea salt)
  • 1 cup of wine [4]
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I used a mix of olive and vegetable oils, because I was running out of one)

Put the garlic, onion and celery in the pot. No, wait. Put the oil in first and heat it up over medium heat, then put in the other stuff. Add seasonings. On top, put the chicken bones. Let that cook for a little while. It might have been like 5 minutes, I wasn’t paying attention. You want the vegetables to get some brown on them. Add the wine, and let simmer for a little while until the alcohol has evaporated (just guesstimate, this isn’t science class). Add enough cool water to cover. Put the lid on, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer and cook that sucker for a while [5].

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Strain the broth. Put it in the fridge overnight to cool completely. The next day, skim the congealed fat off the top and bring to a boil. Ladle into prepared pint jars. Following the directions on your fancy-shmance pressure canner, process at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes [6].

Properly prepared in a pressure canner, this broth should be completely shelf-stable, without refridgeration for years. Keep it in a cool, dark place anyway.

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Notes

  1. Sloppily and hastily
  2. You know, those stupid little cloves that are in the middle of the head of garlic, that are almost not worth peeling because they’re so little and stupid? Yeah, those.
  3. Normally I wouldn’t use so much, but it was starting to go bad and whatever we didn’t use here was going straight into the compost pile. Also, we didn’t have any carrots in our damn fridge, for the first time in months, so I had to make up a little bit of slack in the flavor profile.
  4. Also, a cup to put in the broth after you drink the first cup. I used a white zinfandel
  5. I didn’t time it. It was probably about 2 hours. Cook until the chicken bits are falling apart and you’re bored with waiting.
  6. I got two pints. The recipe with my canner said to process 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. If you make a big enough batch, keep this in mind. Also, do whatever mathemagic you need if you’re at a high altitude.


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For the “holiday“, Dana picked me up a Presto Pressure Canner. Word up to your mothers, homes. I’ve wanted one since last year and with the onions about to come up we’re planning for our first big project to be a big batch of French Onion Soup.

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To celebrate, and to practice using the new canner, I’m going to make up a quick batch of…. Oh wait, I have to clean this hog first in hot soapy water before I can use it? F that. Not happening today. I’ll post a recipe for something later.


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Tomato Watch

The garden has been mostly uneventful for the past few weeks. We’re in a cycle waiting for the next thing to happen. Onions and garlic are getting close to harvest time, but those two crops are notoriously easy to care for and haven’t required any special effort and haven’t produced any surprises.

The real bit thing on our minds right now are the tomatoes. We’re waiting with bated breath (I am a master bater) for the first tomato to start forming. Our tomato plants are looking as healthy as can be and are covered with flowers, though temperatures have been a little low lately and we’ve been getting way too much rain. We have tons of flowers on the tomato plants, but no tomatoes, yet.

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In other news we have one tiny little pepper starting to form on one of our plants (I think it’s a green bell) and the various winter squash plants are starting to send out flowers. The first batch of flowers, of course, is all male. Our first blueberry has started turning blue and I’d expect several of them to start ripening within a week or two.

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Over the weekend the munchkin and I went out picking strawberries, but he lost interest after a fat minute and we came home with a disappointing haul. Sorry, no strawberry jam recipes for you!