Cherries are a favourite at the Christmas table in Australia. The cherry season is typically only last for around 100 days spanning spring and summer months, peaking around the Christmas New Year period. Unfortunately, food waste can be an issue this time of year. So, rather than throw out those leftover cherries that have seen better days, why not use them to make some cherry jam?
Pick of the crop
When buying cherries, have a look at the stems. If the stems are a vibrant green colour, firm and flexible, then the cherries are reasonably fresh. Keep an eye out for organic or pesticide-free cherries and make sure you get them into the fridge ASAP to help preserve their freshness. Only wash cherries just before eating, as moisture can cause them to spoil quickly. It is best to devour cherries within a few days of purchasing — they don’t store very well as they have a rapid respiration rate.
Cherries are part of the stone fruit family, and pack quite a punch when it comes to nutrients and antioxidants. Like most fruit and vegetables, cherries are rich in vitamins and minerals, in particular, potassium. Potassium is essential for regulation of blood pressure, maintenance of water balance, regulation of pH, cellular function as well as muscle and nerve function — just to name a few. Cherries also contain polyphenols and antioxidants, that give cherries their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to protect against oxidative stress. Polyphenols also feed the beneficial microbes that make up our microbiome.
This recipe came about when I seriously overestimated our ability to eat a kilo of cherries within a couple of days. We were left with just less than half a bag of withered cherries that had definitely seen better days. So, rather than let them go to waste, I came up with this recipe.
I am not a particularly gifted baker, so I decided to make some jam rather than attempting a cherry pie. Besides, cherry jam is a lovely cheese platter accompaniment and Christmas is a time that we tend to indulge in cheese. I have used chia seeds in this recipe to help set the jam and just a little honey to sweeten, but you could use any sweetener you have on hand.
400 g sweet cherries
a pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon of honey
a small bunch of lemon thyme
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
Wash the cherries thoroughly in cold water. Use a small paring knife to carefully cut cherries in half, remove the pit and cut off any old, bruised or funky looking bits.
In a small saucepan, add the cherries, salt, honey and lemon thyme and slowly simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes. With the lemon thyme you can either strip the leaves or tie the bunch into a bundle using kitchen string — if you don’t want thyme leaves in the jam, then go for the second option.
Once the cherries are soft and syrupy give them a quick blitz with a stick blender. If you prefer a smoother jam, then blitz for a little longer. If you prefer a chunky, textured jam, then you can skip this step altogether.
Let the mixture cool slightly, add the chia seeds and combine well. While the jam is still warm, pour into a clean sterilised jar and set aside to cool. The jam should keep for up to 10 days in the fridge.
Enjoy your cherry jam with crackers and cheese (a sharp, crumbly cheddar is a cracking combination) or you could go more traditional, smearing it on some fresh sourdough or with scones and cream. Whatever indulgence takes your fancy.