This week, I got to drive down to the central coast of California to spend a couple of days in Big Sur. That meant passing through some of the best fruit and veggie growing regions in the state. More particularly, it meant bringing home four pounds of early variety Brooks cherries from a roadside stand in Gilroy.
I already had an idea of what I wanted to do with these cherries. A couple months ago, Kate at Snowflake Kitchen had been talking about a cherry ginger jam that I bookmarked in my brain. It’s also time for rhubarb and– gah! — I’m still trying to use up my frozen supply of over-enthusiasm from last year. Because I’m off refined sugar, I wanted to see whether I could put all these things together in a honey-sweetened jam using Pomona’s Pectin.
I’ve used Pomona’s a lot (it was how I first learned to make jam), but it’s always been with either a small amount of white sugar or with no sugar and concentrated fruit juice for sweetener. (My recipes for blackberry lime jam and cherry blueberry jam are examples of those two methods, respectively.) This is the first time I’ve used only honey as a sweetener with Pomona’s, so I followed the directions pretty close to the letter.
I like this jam a lot. Here’s a quick list of the best things about it, followed by a few things to consider before you try it yourself:
- Neither the fruit nor the honey are cooked for a long time, so the flavor is fresh.
- It’s nicely tart and plenty sweet enough, and the honey flavor doesn’t overpower.
- It doesn’t require a lot of honey — just one cup — so the cost of using good honey won’t break you.
- The set is good — not too loose, not too firm.
- There’s no refined sugar!
- Commercial pectin always has a slightly gummy consistency, so there’s a little of that here.
- Because there’s no sugar, this jam will lose color quickly. Rhubarb, especially, tends to brown out. You’ll want to eat it all within a few months.
- There’s no refined sugar!
Finally, I should say that, if you don’t believe in heating honey, this recipe’s not for you. I’ve recently learned that most folks who follow an Ayurvedic diet claim that heated honey becomes toxic. Other sources say that’s a myth with no science to support it. Science does seem to support the idea that heat destroys some of the nutritional benefits of honey. A lot of tested recipes use honey for baking and preserving, however, so I’ll leave it to you to decide what works best in your book.
I’m very happy to have jams like this one on my restricted diet!
Cherry Rhubarb Jam with Ginger and Honey
Makes 5-6 half-pint jars
1 cup stewed, mashed rhubarb (about 1/2 pound)
3 cups pitted, mashed cherries (about 2 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup wildflower honey (room temperature)
4 teaspoons calcium water*
3 teaspoons pectin powder
* The calcium is in the Pomona’s box with the pectin powder, along with instructions about how to prepare the calcium water; it’s easy. I mix mine in advance and store it in the fridge for a few months.
1. Prepare your jars and lids. (You’ll process the jars for 10 minutes, so they don’t need to be sterilized but they do need to be clean and hot. I prepare my lids by placing them in a small bowl and pouring boiling water over them. The hot jars and lids can sit until you’re ready to use them.)
2. Wash the rhubarb and chop it into 1″ pieces. Put the rhubarb in a small saucepot with a little bit of water (no more than 1/2 cup) and simmer until just soft enough to pierce with a fork. (If your rhubarb happens to be frozen, like mine was, don’t add any water to the pot. Just place the frozen fruit in a covered pot over very low heat and let it soften.)
3. While the rhubarb is simmering, wash and pit the cherries and smush them well with a potato masher. Add the minced ginger and smush some more. When the rhubarb is soft, add it to the cherries and ginger and do a little more smushing. You want to end up with a total of 4 cups of mashed fruit mixture.
4. Put the fruit in a 6- or 8-quart nonreactive, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in the lime juice and calcium water.
5. Measure the honey into a small bowl and stir in the pectin powder. Mix well.
6. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil for a couple of minutes, add the honey-pectin mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes more. Bring the mixture back to a boil, then remove it from the heat.
7. Pour the jam into jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the rims clean before adding lids, and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. (Add 1 minute to the processing time for every 1,000 feet above sea level.)