As of today, the Snowpocalypse of 2015 has ended. At least from my window. Trees are no longer glazed with ice, nor cars blanketed with snow, and I can see grass again. All the ice and snow and sub-zero temperatures brought about 5 days of school cancellations for Davidson County. That’s right, I haven’t been to school in nine days (if you count the weekend). So what does one do when forced to stay home, when robbed of the opportunity to educate and to care for the youth of America? Well, I don’t know what one does, but I know what I do. I make a shit-ton of food.
It started innocently enough: a simple bowl of guacomole, studded with sliced jalapeno and tiny ribbons of chopped cilantro. But one dip alone would not do. I moved onto homemade hummus, made with lots of fresh lemon, tahini, and a dash of soy sauce–I know, it sounds weird, but it’s a hummus game-changer. Things got a little weirder when I decided that I would brave the treacherous roads to buy pork bones, konbu, and dried shiitake mushrooms for some homemade ramen. The broth, complex, full-bodied and rich, was the result of nearly 8 hours of simmering on the stove. While the soup did its thing, I made fresh pasta of all shapes and sizes. Longer sheets for bolognese lasagne, and the tiniest of threads for the ramen.
The next day, I woke up and spent the day making croissants, pain au chocolat, and cinnamon rolls. If you know my wife, it should come as no surprise to you that, in the midst of my 5-day culinary frenzy, she was on a “juice fast.” I’ve added quotations to that because, well, she did eat some of the hummus. And she had a few croissants. And a cinnamon roll. As I unabashedly slurped ramen in my underwear while watching basketball, she would offer me ‘a juice.’ Most times, I declined, saying that the only juice for me was squeezed fresh from the Bourbon tree and then given time to ferment, so that its nutritional properties were intensified. I entrusted Col. E.H. Taylor, as his famed bourbon juice is highly regarded in all the lands.Saturday, even with all of the bourbon and the fresh pasta and the ramen and the croissants and the hummus and the cinnamon rolls and everything, I was ready to be done with all this frozen nonsense. To me, ice was no longer exciting or beautiful–it was dangerous and irresponsible. My thoughts returned to summer, to the warmth of the sun on my back, to a downy bed of green grass and the smell of bailed hay, when a cold drink on a hot day is more valuable than silver or gold, when stalks and branches collapse under the weight of their own sweet fruit, when dusty wicker baskets are filled with bright peppers, and fragrant herbs, and tomatoes so plump with flavor they might pop, when all of the world is a great big smile and every day feels like a celebration.
But the cold truth is that it’s February. And I must learn to love these days. I must learn to see that the warmth and life of Spring and Summer would not be possible without the cold and the dead of Winter. And that life exists only in relation to death. And so, on the edge of this existential rumination, I would find a way to honor this time of sleep and quiet and cold.
I would make cherry jam. I mean, think about it: these cherries, once plump with sweetness and juice and life have been immortalized when kissed by cold. They remain plump and sweet and filled with life. That’s right, this is the way that I tell you that I used frozen berries to make homemade jam. And the result was just what I needed to keep me here in the present cold while still appreciating what will soon come: the warmth of spring and the heat of summer.
Cherry-Minneola Jam–makes a little more than a jar of jam
12 oz cherries, fresh or frozen
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest and juice of 1 minneola tangerine
3/4 cups sugar
To start, chop up the cherries. Zest the minneola and slice the fruit into small pieces. Zest the lemon and set the juice aside. In a small saucepan, cook down the cherries, the tangerine, the lemon juice and the zest. Once the cherries have softened (about 15 minutes), add the sugar and raise the temperature to medium-high heat. At this point, stir the mixture continuously. It’s important that the sugar does not burn. Meanwhile, place a large spoon in the freezer. After the cherry mixture has been cooking for 10 or so minutes, place a drop of the jam on the frozen spoon. Give it a second in the freezer. With your finger, check to see that the jam on the spoon has thickened. If it has not thickened, continue to cook the cherry mixture and try again. Once it passes the frozen spoon test, pour the jam into a mason jar and pop it in the fridge. The jam will continue to gel as it cools, and after several hours, it will come together completely.
As for how to serve it, well that’s up to you. I had a paper bag filled with flaky croissants, so it was a no-brainer. It would also be the perfect thing to serve alongside a wheel of goat cheese or brie.