It is the time of year here in France that our thoughts turn to harvesting the fruit from our gardens.
I have a large cherry tree, two plum trees and more pear trees than I care to count.
This weekend, it was the cherries that were gathered in, and despite the variable weather, I was staggered over the amount of fruit there was to be picked. Friends and neighbours all had baskets to take away, even after I had taken more than enough for me.
The cherries on my tree are slightly bitter, and make for wonderful jam or conserve, which is what I am in the process to doing, between blogging about it.
I stocked up with preserving sugar and pectin additive ( I am a born cheat on the jam front) and have hauled out my jars for cleaning, along with labels lids and other jammy kit in order to get started.
I am more a fan these days of a conserve that can be kept for a reasonable time in the fridge, over the traditional jam. My last attempt saw me sail past the setting point, despite my sugar thermometer readings, and the end result was more of a toffee consistency – quite delicious though.
Whatever you choose to do, always make sure that all the equipment is scrupulously clean, and dry.
I have a system where I place the jars in the sink next to the Aga where I boil a kettle of water. As it boils, I pour it into each jar, where I have placed a spoon, which prevents the glass from breaking. I let the water sit for about 10 minutes and then pour it out and drain the jars upside down on a clean tea-cloth set on a baking tray on the Aga lids to dry. For lids, I use a circle of greasproof paper and melt parrafin wax over the conserve to seal it in. It is the method used here and really does give an excellent airtight seal.
So, here is my recipe for Cherry Conserve.
1 kilo of stoned cherries
1 kilo of preserving sugar
40 g of setting mix
1. Wash cherrries and remove stalks
2. Stone the cherries
3. Place in a large thick bottomed pan – I find something non-stick is ideal
4. Cook the cherries, bringing the mixture slowly up to bubbling point and continue to cook for 15 minutes
5. Mix 4 tablespoons of setting powder with 4 tablespoons of the preserving sugar.
6. Sprinkle this mixture over the fruit and carry on cooking for a further 5 minutes. Stir constantly
7. Add the rest of the sugar, and bring to a rapid boil and maintain for another five minutes
8. Skim any impurities of the top of the pan and discard
9. Allow to cool, and pour into warmed jars, seal with paper and wax.
10. Store in the fridge
This conserve may not give as firm a set as jam, but it is ideal to add to yoghurt, creme fraiche or ice cream.
Scones, toast and bread and butter are an excellent afternoon treat with this conserve.
It is also good to make fruit tartlets as the sugar has less of a tendency to burn in the pastry cases, due to the lower temperature that it has been prepared with.