For some, summer means the beach, swimming, camping, long, balmy evenings. For me – well, yes, all that too. But summer in my world is a taste. It tastes like cherries, apricots, barbecued sweetcorn, juicy watermelon and fresh fish, caught from the ocean in our very rustic little tinny that offers no comforts whatsoever, but does the job of skipping over the waves and carrying us home with full chilly bins very well indeed.
Of course, the best place to get your cherries is in the South Island, most notably in Otago. I’ve still never been, but one day I’ve promised myself I’ll get down there and spend a day picking my own. These sweet, delicious pops of burgundy red are, I think, best eaten just as they are.
Kept in the fridge (and always buy fully ripened cherries, as unlike some stonefruit, they don’t ripen once picked), cherries have a wonderful crunch that I can’t resist; I do attempt the odd recipe with them, but by the time I make it, there usually aren’t enough cherries left in the box!
If you have a bit more self-restraint than me, try this recipe for Cherry Jam so you can continue to enjoy this delightful flavour once the season’s out. Just a note though: I don’t use extra pectin or preservatives, so don’t leave it too long before you eat it up.
Cherry & Cardamom Jam
Made in 20 minutes. Makes 1 x 300ml jar.
- 1kg fresh plump, dark cherries
- 1 lemon
- 4 cardamom seeds
- 3 cups jam sugar
- 1/2 cup water
Wash and dry all the cherries. Remove pits, and chop roughly (I like my jam quite chunky, so I only cut them into three or four pieces, and I leave the odd one whole, so someone gets a surprise on their scone!).
Place cherries in a large saucepan. Using a peeler or zester, zest the skin of the lemon directly over the cherries.
Crush the cardamom seeds well, and add to the mix, removing any woody stalks, then add the sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover the cherries and bring to the boil.
Once water is bubbling at the side, stir occasionally to mix in the sugar. Add the lemon juice from your zested lemon, stir and allow to boil (be careful it doesn’t splatter) for about 15 minutes.
Reduce heat a little and continue to boil until it’s thick and syrupy, taking care to stir so it doesn’t burn at the bottom.
The best test of whether your jam is ready is to put a teaspoon of the liquid onto a cold saucer. Leave for a second or two, then run your finger down the middle. If the jam sets and doesn’t run back, it’s ready. If it’s still too liquid, boil a little more.
When it’s ready, allow to cool. Transfer to a sterilised jam jar, cover with baking paper and seal. Refrigerate until needed.