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All is not fair in love (nor indeed, in war) for a difficult life choice is in determining between elegant hands and a trim waistline, or the love of cherries. I have decided that the joy, wellbeing, artistic and gastronomic satisfaction won from growing, picking, pitting and cooking one’s own cherries outweighs vanity.
“Stand back. This is gonna get messy…..” begins David Leibovitz’s recipe for no-recipe cherry jam. (www.davidlebovitz.com) He then exhorts: “Wear something red”….His words are true.
In season, fresh cherries with cheese combines and constitutes both the French inter-course and a dessert. Cherry ice cream is divine and cherry jam on the tongue surrounds one with summer even in the year’s deepest darkest days, when root vegetables rule O.K.
Cherry season came early to the French Alps this year and as I took off to Ireland and then Berlin in the midst of it, the birds had got the lot from our garden by the time we came back. However, there were cherries selling at €1.99 a kilo in a Carrefour supermarket near Turin as we drove back from a trip to Italy recently, so I bought 4kgs for jam. That meant immediate preparation, before a mouldy, gorey gloop enveloped the ‘fridge. Enter a very useful Christmas present: the cheery Cherry Chomper, guaranteed with its foff teeth to prevent the chopping of finger-tips. Daughter Lucy presented it one deeply snowy morning in New York at the start of January and having crossed an ocean to another continent, it came into its own last week. Leibovitz advises buying only as many cherries as you feel like pitting….. “Usually I have the patience for about 3 pounds, but it’s up to you. Figure one pound of cherries will make one good-sized jar of jam.”
Rinsing the cherries, I put some in a bowl for eating fresh, divided the rest into two groups – jam making and dessert making – and then froze them. With fruit ready-prepared in the freezer, jam can be made in smaller batches in a quiet week and it also lasts longer as there is no glut in July and famine in January, by which time the confection could have spoiled.
David Leibovitz’s recipe does the job. I would just add a recommendation for the excellent pectin-added sugars readily available (‘Sucre Gel Spécial Confitures et Gelée’ in France.)
Fresh cherries and cheese are gorgeous with Macvin from Rolet Pere et Fils. The Rolet Estate is the second largest wine-growing concern in the Jura region close to the Swiss border. Macvin, produced by adding aged brandy to grape juice, can be drunk on ice as an aperitif, or as a post-meal liqueur.