In England we have expression that someone is ‘cack handed’. It’s not used much anymore but it basically means clumsy, careless, not very organised or rushing in without thinking. As a child my mum used it regularly to explain to people how I’d got my latest bruise or small injury. I once explained to a teacher that the reason I couldn’t do something was ‘because mum says I’m crack-handed Miss.’ having disputed this and tried her hardest to teach me the teacher conceded ‘on this occasion I really do think your mum knows best’.
Today I struck again.
Having successfully made red onion chutney this morning I decided to make a batch of cherry jam. I found two recipes that both indicated that as cherries are low in pectin I needed jam sugar and I don’t have any. I do however have lots of granulated left from feeding the bees in the autumn and I hate spending money unless I have to, and, I live 20 miles round trip from a jam sugar stocking shop.
One recipe suggested redcurrant juice which again I didn’t have. But I do have redcurrants frozen from the summer. Remembering my good friend had used some in strawberry jam in the summer, with great success, she said, I decided to throw in a handful. That was my first mistake!
I stirred and softened the fruit, warmed the sugar and put the jars in the oven to sterilise. It didn’t smell very fruity so I thought I would try a bit.
Now jam gets hot, VERY HOT and I burnt my tongue, followed by the realisation that I had a mouth full of what felt like pea-shingle. I then remembered that the reason I hate redcurrants, and only really grew them for the chickens who don’t, is because they have pips. Lots of tiny, hard pips.
If you are a beekeeper it is at this point that you will notice that the pips look very like varroa mites and are just as annoying. Having lifted out the fruit with a slotted spoon I sieved the juice and put it back on to boil. The W. I. recipe that had sensibly suggested the juice also suggested a hard boil of that juice with the sugar before adding the fruit.
If only I had listened. It took me half an hour to pick through the cherries. Who realised that redcurrants are exactly the same size as a cherry pip and fit inside the pitted middle so exactly? I now know this!
I also know that they don’t all come out but do float to the top when you jar the jam allowing you, with the help of your reading glasses, to skim off even more. I also now know that 4oz of redcurrant pips go a long way in 4lb of cherries.
Eventually I ended up with nine jars of jam, a kitchen covered in jam, sticky hair and clothes(it’s hard to swap between normal and reading glasses while jarring jam without touching your head/jumper and various other surfaces it seems!).
Now I don’t really eat jam so if my family don’t rave about my new cherry jam and discreetly pick out any remaining pips without a fuss I well might have to gift 8 jars to my lovely friend who clearly didn’t notice the pips when she used them.
If they do like it I have at least another 4lb of cherries in the freezer. I can have another go but maybe I’ll be more organised and juice those redcurrants first!