Sunday, June 8, 2008

Needs Must

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who make lists, and those who don't.

I go to the grocery store with a list in hand. To do otherwise would be to court failure. Without a list, one leaves the store with a superfluous, expensive box of tea that caught one's fancy. Without a list, one leaves without the eggplant that was to be tomorrow night's dinner.

I even have a list-making ritual. On Sunday morning, I sit with a cup of coffee and my cookbooks and magazines, scouting for new dishes. My selections get dog-eared and the ingredients go on my list according to each ingredient's location in the grocery store and its perishability. Center-aisle baking goods go first, followed by produce, followed by dairy and meats.

This is compulsive behavior, I'm sure. Some of you are thinking, "There's probably a prescription for that, Sarah." List-making makes me happy, though. It's reassuring. In the hurricane of activity that is my work week, list-making allows me to organize my desires on one little index card.

After all, I am not a retiree leaning on her cart, slowly ambling the aisles. I am a harried Gen-Xer, a full-time worker, a commuter. A week's worth of groceries go into my cart. If I forget an ingredient, I don't make a second trip; I compromise instead.

Additionally, with a list, I buy only what I think we will need. This cuts down on cost and waste.

Sometimes things get away from me, though. I end up with an item that does not get eaten. For example, this bag of cherries that sat on my counter all week.

They were dancing on the edge of overripeness this morning and I felt a blip of anxiety just looking at them. At a cool $5.99 per pound, I could not bear to toss them but I knew that we would not have a chance to eat them today.

Which is why I made cherry jam. Needs must, as they say. Waste not, want not, as they also say.

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe posted by Robin of the beautifully-written Caviar and Codfish. Because I did not have a lime waiting around to be zested, I used a lemon instead. I also increased the amount of almond extract from 1/8 teaspoon to a 1/2 teaspoon since almonds and cherries are a match made in heaven.

Cherry Jam
Adapted from Caviar and Codfish's recipe

1 pound cherries, halved and pitted
The juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup water, if needed
2/3 cup sugar

Put a small plate in the freezer.

Heat the cherries in a large pot over medium heat. Add the lemon and almond extract. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the cherries are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup of water and stir, then add the sugar and stir for a few minutes.

Robin offers this test for the jam: "Test the jam by placing a bit on the plate from the freezer. Put it back in the freezer for a couple minutes, then take out and nudge the jam with your finger. If it wrinkled up a bit, or if it hardly moves when you tilt the plate sideways, your jam is done. If not, put the pot back on the heat and cook some more before testing again. Cherry jam sets easily, so you’ll probably only have to test it once or twice."

Once the jam is done, you can store it in one of two ways. I used a regular Tupperware because I know that we will eat all of the jam in the next few days.

If you plan to can the jam, Robin has the following instructions for you: "If canning, screw on the lids and heat another pot full of water until boiling. Add the jars to the pot carefully and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars–carefully–and place on a towel. The jars should make a popping noise soon, telling you they are properly sterilized. When you push down on the lid of a sterilized jar, it will not make a clicking noise. Store in a cool dark place and consume within one year."

Fills about 3 4 oz. jars.

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