The happy tedium of cherry jam.

I’m feeling a bit better this week—not better as in I can spend more time off the couch than on it better, or my life is going back to normal and I can sleep a whole 8 hours without being awakened by shudders of pain in my back and hips better, or even I no longer feel like I’ve gone bonkers better, but by now, I ain’t asking for much; and feeling as if there may be a teensy blip of light at the end of the tunnel is seriously uplifting. Almost as uplifting, I must add, as all your comments have been—I loved everyone’s caring words.

They helped me calm down, helped me realize that it will get better—if not physically (though that’s the hope, dammit!) then mentally. Everything that was happening was too much for me to see through—I couldn’t fathom ever getting better, or being happy again. You guys helped me realize that it was stupid ol’ depression talking, that I hadn’t gone totally nuts. Honestly, I started to feel better as soon as I published that post… and each comment that came in made me feel even better.

I realize now that it’s going to be an uphill climb. I’m not just going to one day wake up and feel 100 percent (though I’m not ruling out that possibility), but that gradually I’ll get better. I may not be able to go dancing anytime soon, but that’s okay. I’ve started to get the whole it’s been six months already so what the hell’s up thought out of my head, replacing it with a it’s been six months, that sucks, but let’s do something to get my mind off it kind of thinking. I’m no longer upset about not being able to cook elaborate meals or lavish desserts, spending hours in the kitchen. I’ve given up on that for a bit. I also gave up on my apartment patio gardening—opting to buy pre-potted plants that are, in truth, better looking than the ones I grew last year. I made food processor bread that didn’t need one knead. And I started taking pleasure in the slow, tedious cooking that you can do while sitting down.

There’s a happy tedium in pitting three pounds of cherries. And I’m grateful for that.

Cherry Jam

This is my recipe for one pound of cherries—since cherries are so expensive I never make much of the jam in fear that I won’t eat it all throughout the year. Surely though, double or triple if you want. Make sure to buy a little over the weight of cherries you want to use, to make up for any bruised fruit that you may find in the bag.

Also, I halve the cherries with a sharp paring knife and then pull out the pit—I’ve always heard that you should put pressure on the cherry with the flat side of a big knife and that it will conveniently split open and dislodge the pit. I find that technique too messy so unless you are bent on having plump whole cherries in your jam, cutting in half with a knife is fine.

  • 1 pound cherries, halved and pitted
  • the juice and zest of one lime
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup water, optional
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Put a small plate in the freezer.

Heat cherries in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. Add the lime and almond extract. Bring to a boil and then cook until cherries are tender, maybe 15-20 minutes. If not much juice has come out, add some water, up to 1/2 cup.

Add the sugar and stir for a few minutes. Test the jam by taking the pot off the heat and putting a bit of it 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.

Pour the jam in sterilized mason jars with new dome lids and screw bands (leaving 1/4 inch of headspace) if canning, or in whatever container you like if you plan to eat the jam in the next few weeks.

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.