This was supposed to be a post about my first time canning…See that beautiful bowl of cherries? They came from a friend’s cherry trees. A seasoned gardener and canner, she gave me jars and advice on how to make cherry jam. I psyched myself up all afternoon. “You can do this! Channel your inner Ina Garten and can those puppies. You won’t mess up. Just follow the instructions.”
I am both enamored and intimidated by canning. I love the idea of picking produce (literally, I picked those suckers) and preparing them to be enjoyed long after the growing season is over. The whole process is like wrapping up little presents to be opened later in the year when snow is on the ground, and life seems frozen and cold. In my dream land, I open up my pantry and see dozens of shiny jars filled with colorful veggies and thick jams.
I have vivid memories of my Mawmaw opening up a jar of plum preserves or apricot jelly and scooping a spoonful on a warm homemade biscuit. As a kid, I remember the fruit concoction being so foreign from the Smucker’s that I usually had for breakfast. It was thicker, sweeter…messier, like most homemade things compared to their mass produced counterparts. You never knew exactly what kind of jam you were getting until you scooped into it. Mawmaw never labeled. Rows of mismatched unlabeled jars lined her shelves. Sometimes she would unscrew a lid to find a bit of white fuzz on top of the jam. My cousins and I would shoot worried glances and make faces at each other, scared to eat it. Mawmaw scraped off the fuzz, gave a hearty laugh and said, “A little mold never hurt anybody!”
I joke about being a black thumb when it comes to plants, but it really bothers me. I want to plant things and see them grow. There are lots of things that admittedly I am terrible at…dieting, reading a map, using Twitter, picking clothes and jewelry that are both age and weight appropriate. I am fine with the fact I struggle in these areas. I enlist help. But I REALLY want to grow things…and then seal them away in little jars. I am being completely honest when I say the only reason our peach tree survives each year is because I stay far away from it. This year I will can those peaches. If I do nothing else this summer, that I will do.
Cherry Vanilla Pie
-4 cups pitted sour cherries
-2/3 cup organic cane sugar
-Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
-Seeds from two vanilla beans
-1 teaspoon almond extract
-1 tablespoon cornstarchInstructions:
1. Prepare crust. I use this recipe for a butter crust and with a couple pinches of cinnamon. It just adds a little something. Bake crust until golden brown about 25 minutes.
2. Add cherries, lemon, and sugar to a large pot and simmer over low-medium heat. Stir often to keep fruit from burning.
3. Split and seed vanilla beans. Once fruit releases some moisture and the mixture begins to bubble, add vanilla beans and almond extract. Simmer while stirring often for 15 minutes.
4. Combine cornstarch with a couple tablespoons of ice cold water. Remove pot from heat and add cornstarch. Stir and return to low heat. Continue stirring frequently and let liquid reduce and sauce thicken. Once desired thickness is achieved, add to pie crust. (Here’s how I like it: When you dip the spoon in and empty it, some of the juices and fruit still stick to the spoon.) Cherries will be very hot. Allow to sit 20 minutes before serving.
Do any of you can? Do you have any advice for newbies?
PS-The title for this post was partly inspired by the movie The Waitress. Have you seen it? It’s one of my favorites.