Montreal is blustery and cold. Her sweat inducing summer days are long gone; her thick leafy trees are turning burnt orange and shriveling up brown. People are riding their bikes wearing ear-mitts, scarves, gloves, and heaven forbid even toques! Yes, fall is upon us. Luckily, before summer skipped and slipped so quickly away, like she has a habit of doing, I bottled her tight in jars, safe now until a winter afternoon, when the snow's blowing all around, the kettle's whistling and fresh scones are coming out of the oven. Then I'll pop the lid off one of my jars and inhale the sweet citrus apple gold smell of ground cherry jam, or as we say here in Quebec, cerries-de-terre.
I'd never tried them until I moved to Montreal, nor had I heard of them. Apparently, they do grow out West, but not as prolifically as they do in Eastern Canada where they flourish in the hot summer sun and are often referred to as weeds (similar to the humble, but prolific, western blackberry). Someone at work brought me ground cherry jam that his mother made and I only had a little spoonful, but this juicy orange berry whose relation to the Chinese lantern family is recognizable by its delicate papery skin, produces une confiture sublime. That one spoonful was like eating warm late-summer sun and Meyer lemons and yellow plums all at once. When they started appearing at the market, in huge baskets, I admit, I was intimidated, but knew it was a necessary project.
A few weeks ago, after completing the major, more pressing tasks of my move, and with fall swirling across the city, I quickened my steps and hastened to the market to buy an enormous basket of ground cherries (we're talking more than 16 cups of berries people) determined to make some preserves that would last. I always think it's against my nature to preserve - it takes patience and much waiting for things to reduce, or boil, or sterilize, and I do love the intensity of sauteing, or frantic chopping, or quick minute sauces. But to my surprise, with a little help of Katherine's recommended super duper low-sugar, all-natural, universal do-everything pectin, I managed to produce delicious results.
Because of my schedule, I'm not home in the evenings very much, and in the day I race around the city (rather enthusiastically I might add) taking care of business. So it was in the hours after 10:oo pm that I made the jam. It took me several days to take the skins off all the berries, wash them, mash them, and make them into the aforementioned breakfast-ready delight.
I have no recipe to leave you because you can find it inside a box of Pamona's Universal Pectin, or here, and I really think it's worth using. I am not a fan of syrupy jam, call me particular (and you won't be wrong), but I like jam that can hold it's own. My sister makes the most delicious, unctuous jams I've ever tasted. They're sweet enough so that you put it on toast by the spoonful, but not so sweet you feel the crash and burn of a sugar high, and they don't sadly slip or drip off your fluffy buttermilk biscuit. It only takes a Saturday and a batch of muffins for my family to devour a whole jar! And she, uses Pamona's Pectin. I have finally found a natural foods store in Montreal that carries this brand, but before I did, she had to send me some. It was with those boxes that I made some damn terrific jam.