Cherry jam: My fascination with cherries and the history of Mrs. Cristina
Another of the preserves that announce the summer is the cherry although, unfortunately, it is a very ephemeral fruit. I have always had a special fixation with the beauty of cherries, that fruit with which we made precious necklaces and earrings in the style of Carmen Miranda; And although I have not been too greedy, I have to confess my great indigestion of cherries, and not because I ate a plate or two, but because eating cherries I have no limit. I like the dark and well-ripened cherry but also the one they call “white belly”, a mixture of pinkish and white. In my family, it was used to make sweet cherry, thick and dense, which was cut as if it were quince and was kept until January to be eaten with the Galician cheese “scattered”: what a pairing delight! I also remember that with the leftover cherry paste the translucent and beautiful jelly was made, which adorned the sideboard where the preserves were kept for the whole year, those that were closed to us until winter, with the excuse that they had to “mature”.
But perhaps, my most romantic evocation is the cherries anise, which was first class on the Gulet. I made it when I had just arrived in Granada, more than forty years ago and I still have a relic in my pantry; it has lost the crimson color; but it is still delicious: strong, thick and dark, and just by smelling it you already get drunk; I think that after so many years, I could sell it as a real “vintage” (photo below). The anise or brandy of sour cherries is very easy to make: brandy, sugar, cinnamon and best of all: a very red carnation to color the anise of that wonderful liquor. It’s a shame that the carnation tradition has been totally lost and, to my amazement, I haven’t even found a recipe on the internet that mentions this tradition.
However, the fascination for cherry in my life went through a turning point, and the frivolous and aesthetic memory that I kept of that precious fruit became sad and even painful from a dramatic story that was somehow related to the cherries. In my childhood, families used to have a seamstress, who for a small fee would come home and make us clothes; or it made our clothes last forever by the procedure of “turning it over”, so when you thought that your coat was totally destroyed, it was recycled with the jingling of the phrase “it was like new”. In my house, there was always a seamstress because, according to my mother, it was part of a good domestic economy. But, to everyone’s amazement, our seamstress, Doña Cristina, an elderly, affectionate and unappreciative lady, came from Almería because she had been my grandparents’ seamstress, and she came from none other than Almería. Then and now, Almería was on the other side of Spain, but Doña Cristina arrived from that interminable trip and stayed at my house for several months; She was welcomed as if she were Coco Chanel herself, and her workshop was installed in the dining room gallery, closed by a beautiful stained-glass window that combined with fuchsias, which was the only plant that occurred in my house; that place in the house was like a warm “recachita”, protected from all the winds in the world, from where the seamstress could contemplate the best view of the estuary; However, while sewing and sewing, her mind seemed to be elsewhere, which did not prevent her from being talkative and always ready to tell a story with her characteristic Andalusian charm; I was amazed, however, at my ability to go from laughing to crying for no apparent reason. My father did not spend a day without going to see his old seamstress and without making a fuss, which she was grateful for always treating you.
One day she told me that she was going to embroider something in a blue dress that she was making for me and asked me what I preferred, to which I replied without thinking: “some very red cherries, with a very green stem”. I don’t think I was a particularly capricious girl but I always had very clear ideas of what I wanted and didn’t want. I wish I had them now! And so it was: she made me a beautiful dress with large pockets, a bow tied at the back and some bouquets of red cherries and a green tail at the front, which looked like something out of a painting. I always adored that outfit, which I did not want to part with, although every year I was getting richer, but since my mother had resources for everything, first she was pleased with the generous stuff she had; and finally another dress was made and the cherries were sewn on, and that’s how it lasted for me year after year with my cherries intact. For this reason, when I think of Doña Cristina the first memory that comes to mind is my gratitude for her beloved and exquisite embroidery.
Many years later, when my brother suffered from an incurable disease, one night in the hospital we talked until dawn, remembering our family life, and at one point I told him: “things were happening at home that I never understood: for example, how doña Cristina came from Almería to sew “. My brother, with his characteristic irony and derision, said to me: “It seems that you have fallen from a pine tree.” The thing about Dona Cristina’s trip was a cover. Indeed, Doña Cristina was the grandparents’ seamstress, but the reason for that strange trip was due to the visits she made to her husband, a prisoner in Burgos prison since the end of the war, and of course, from Galicia it was much easier, besides that my father paid the expenses. That fact was kept a strict secret in my house, although my brother suspected that many people should know it, except for me! Then I felt the tremendous paradox between my frivolity for those embroidered cherries and the tears that they would have seen shed. Now I understand that this wife, even though she was naturally kind and optimistic, at the memory of her imprisoned husband, let her terrible grief be glimpsed. This episode has been part of my “sentimental education”, and has made me very aware of human suffering.
Well, after these nostalgic memories, I am going to offer you the recipe for cherry jam with secret included, in case it ever gives you depression and you want to entertain yourself with something that, as María Dolores Pradera says “is not styled”, but I assure you that will give you great peace of mind.
a kilo of fruit X 750 gr. of sugar.
2 lemons for every kilo
cherry pitos wrapped in a piece of porous white cloth.
1.You already know my opinion of how important it is to use a good fruit: ripe and smooth at the same time. In the first photo, the cherries are from the Jerte valley, famous throughout Spain, in the second they are more local, from the mountainous area of Granada: La Alpujarra, and both are delicious.
2. We use the same procedure as for the other preserves (except for the orange and onion jam). You remove the bone and remove them; then you add the sugar, stirring well; Don’t forget to add the juice of one lemon for each kilo of fruit.
3. Let the mixture rest for a few hours until it is well dissolved, or overnight. I have already put it in the same saucepan where I am going to make it and I will have it all night. The next morning I will be dissolved sugar.
4. After that time, put it in a saucepan and boil it for about 40 minutes, but before wrapping the dices in a fine cloth, well tied and put it in with everything. This is the secret of this jam and what will produce the pectin and make the jam come out thick and dense.
5. When it is cooking, it foams, and in many recipes it is recommended to foam it, but I do not do it because a lot of jam is lost and another better procedure is to add a nut of butter (as you see in the photo) and the foam disappears completely . After turning off the fire, you let it rest for 10 minutes and put it in the jars as for the other jams. I like to notice the pieces, as you can see in the photo below:
6. The jam is ready to store so as you already have the jars prepared (see strawberry jam), fill them and put some circles of sulfurized paper, (baking paper, or silicone). If you want to keep it for months or years, then you must sterilize it (see raspberry jam).
7. There you have the final result: a jam with a flavor Exquisite and perfectly textured, great for cheesecakes, crostattas, stuffed pancakes, and a host of other desserts.