Adventures in Freezer Jam

When we moved into our house, Denisa immediately looked at the property and thought “fruit trees.” Not that we had any fruit trees at the time, but she bought some saplings and planted them, and in the intervening 11 years, she’s faithfully pruned them (or had someone help her prune them some years), cared for them, and watched them. The one thing she generally hasn’t been able to do is harvest them. We’ve got apple trees and a cherry tree and a couple other trees that I’ve been told are fruit trees, but I haven’t personally seen any real fruit come off them, so I remain unconvinced.

Up until last year, the apple trees put out maybe 5 apples total. The cherry tree fell into the “I don’t think that’s actually a fruit tree” category.

Until this year, when the cherry tree when crazy. Cherries all over the place. And cherries are one of Denisa’s favorite fruit. Naturally, that meant she ended up leaving the country right as the cherries were getting ripe. She had time to pick a few and make a single cake with them, and that was all.

I’ve always been quite clear with my intentions for our property. I mow the lawn, and that’s about it. I’ve been known to rototill a garden now and then, but I don’t think Denisa would ever say anything like “Bryce does a lot of yard work.” It just doesn’t happen. That’s her department. And so when she was gearing up to head off to Europe, she didn’t even really ask me to do anything with anything. Which was fine by me.

But I’ve been out stacking wood. (Two cord this year. Not much. I’m doing five carts a day, which only takes like 25 minutes. Easy.) And that meant I was out next to that cherry tree day after day. Noticing those cherries. Thinking about all the years Denisa has waited for those cherries to actually exist.

Which is how I found myself up in that cherry tree two days ago, picking as many as I could reach. I’m such a sucker.

In the end, I got about two gallons of cherries. There were still a number up high that I couldn’t get to, but I figured the birds could handle those. The next question was what to do with all of them. Even I realized these cherries would be no good if they just stayed in the fridge for a month.

Denisa makes freezer jam all the time with all sorts of fruit. Would that work for cherries? A bit of googling, and I found out I had sour cherries on my hands, and that yes, they make good freezer jam. But I had it in my head that I needed plastic jars for freezer jam. I had no plastic jars. So at 9 o’clock two nights ago, I went to Walmart. It’s a big store. They had to have those jars there, right?

Wrong. No plastic jars. I tried the grocery store too. No plastic jars. So I bought stuff to make regular jam.

At that point, I figured it was time to call in the experts. I mentioned it to Denisa, and she said she just uses glass jars. Go figure. I had plenty of those. Last night, Operation Cherry Jam began.

I know a lot of you do stuff like this all of the time. You could probably make freezer jam while you danced the polka. I, on the other hand, have never made any sort of jam. There was a lot of me looking things up online and checking the recipe. I needed 5 cups of cherries, finely diced. Do you measure the cherries before you dice them, or after? I started with before, but then I switched to after. I’m still not sure which is right.

Pitting the cherries was a big pain at first. Supposedly you can take a bobby pin and do it “easily.” I couldn’t find a bobby pin, so I tried a chopstick. It sent juice everywhere. In the end, I went with the brute force approach. I was going to chop these cherries up anyway, so what did I care what they looked like? I just squeezed the pits out, one at a time, using my hands to keep the juice from going everywhere. It worked. (Mostly.)

But those cherries had a lot of juice in them. Especially after I did 5 cups’ worth. Was I supposed to include the juice in the jam, or not? I ended up including it.

The actual jam recipe was pretty easy. You just mixed sugar with this powder stuff, then added the cherries (and juice?), stirred for three minutes, and stuck it into jars. No need to even heat anything up. In the end, I had 4 jars of “jam.” It was pretty liquidy, and I had no idea if it would set or not. You’re supposed to leave it out of the fridge for a half hour, then put it in the fridge for 24 hours, and then into the freezer.

This morning when I checked the jam: success! It had set. So at the very least I made a jam-like substance. I have no idea if it tastes good or not. I have my doubts. But the cherries were used.

As for the remaining cherries? I stuck them all on a baking tray and froze them. Doing another batch of jam just wasn’t in the cards for me.

Will I make freezer jam again? Possibly, I suppose. The whole process took about an hour and a half, including clean up, which isn’t terrible. But the big thing for me is that you can go to this place called “the store” and buy jam there. I would rather buy the nicest jam I could than do that freezer jam thing again.

But for Denisa? For those cherries she’s been wanting for so long? I guess I’ve got a soft spot there.

Here’s hoping it actually tastes good. And that next year, we get cherries again, and Denisa is here to jam ’em up.

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