The sweet cherry recipes just keep rolling off the presses here at Local Kitchen. This jam is tangy, even a bit sour, from the addition of oranges and lemons, but it is sweet on the finish with a subtle hint of amaretto and a nice crunch from the walnuts. Nicely complex on toast and I’ll bet it will make an excellent quick marinade for chicken, pork or duck.
So what is “conserve” anyway? Near as I can tell, it is simply jam with nuts. It goes like this:
- Jelly = fruit juice only, combined with sugar and pectin or gelatin
- Jam = fruit, usually mashed or sliced, with juices, and cooked down to a jammy consistency; can contain sugar, honey or pectin, but can have none of those
- Preserves = a fruit jelly, with bits of fruit suspended in it; different from a jam in that you make the jelly first, then suspend the fruit pieces; often has a purer fruit flavor because the fruit pieces don’t have to cook as long, but needs more sugar for the jelly to set
- Conserve = jam with any kind of nut, or sometimes dried fruit
- Compote = whole fruit gently warmed in a hot sugar syrup
That’s it for today’s lesson. Tune in tomorrow when Local Kitchen will be sponsored by the letter “G.”
Adapted from Sour Cherry Walnut Conserve in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, by J. Kingry and L. Devine
Cherry Walnut Conserve
- 3 oranges
- 3 lemons
- 2 and 1/4 lbs (6 cups) pitted sweet black cherries, sliced in half with juice
- 3/4 lb (2 cups chopped) Granny Smith or other tart apples
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 2 cups sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (see Options)
- 1/4 cup amaretto
- If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Zest the oranges and the lemons. This handy microplane zester makes short work of the task (and I’ll warn you, as everyone warned me; yes, these are very sharp. Yes, lemon juice in a cut does sting, thank you very much). Add the zest to a large stockpot.
- Supreme the oranges and the lemons, removing any seeds as you go. Add the lemon and orange supremes, the cherries, apples and water to the stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until cherries are softened, about 15 minutes.
- Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Reduce heat further and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and spits when you drag a spoon across the bottom of the pan, about 1 hour. Temperature at this point should be nearing 220 degrees F (or 8 degrees above the temperature of boiling water on your thermometer).
- Add walnuts and amaretto. Stir to combine, increase high and bring to a high boil. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes. Stir continuously until conserve reaches gel stage (220 degrees F, or sheeting off of a spoon, or wrinkled in the freezer/plate test).
- Fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 5 cups.
- The original recipe called for 5 cups of sour cherries (again, dissing the sweet cherry), the zest of only one lemon, and 3 and 1/2 cups sugar.
- Because I cut the amount of sugar nearly in half, the yield was lower; the original recipe stated a yield of about 7 cups. The walnuts are added at the end of cooking, and had I been paying better attention, I would have added less than the recipe-called-for 3/4 cup, because walnuts are non-acidic and I had less total volume of acidic ingredients (once again, a good job for a pH meter!). Just by eyeballing it, I think the conserve should be safely acidic, given the amount of acid ingredients (lemons, orange, cherries and apples) against the walnuts (in my oh-so-scientific analysis), but, to be on the safe side, you may want to lower the amount of walnuts to 1/2 cup, or add the 3/4 cup and store the conserve in the refrigerator. Botulism is definitely not something you want to take chances with!
- I think honey would work nicely in this recipe (I ran out! Must get more at the farmer’s market on Saturday). Of course, the recipe is already quite indulgent, what with oranges, lemons, walnuts and amaretto; all most definitely not local to me, but that’s no reason not to use local honey in place of sugar. It will, however, affect the set of the conserve and make it a little softer than sugar. I would use 1 and 1/2 cups honey, as it is sweeter than sugar, and adjust the walnuts accordingly, as yield will likely be about 1/2 cup lower.
- The set on this jam was fairly firm; quite spreadable, but it could be a tad bit softer to be perfect. Next time I will only heat to about 217 – 218 degrees F.
If canned, store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. If refrigerated, use within 3 months.