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Berries & Cherries to JAM!

A couple of weeks ago we went fruit picking. It was our first time visiting Seamans' Orchard, and we will definitely go back. The goal of the day was to go cherry picking. The cherries were perfect, the trees full, and in a very short amount of time we had about twenty pounds. Now, to the resonable human that would seem like the perfect place to stop. For my two oldest kiddos and me, we then moved onto blueberries. It was a little early for blueberry picking, so we had to be really committed.

Five pounds of blueberries later we were done! We paid, got delicious fruit slushies, and headed back to the car. As we sat and enjoyed our slushies we noticed that people were picking strawberries. We had gone into the day assumming strawberry season was over. Much to my surprise the kids talked me into strawberry picking too, an easy ten pounds later I drew the line. With a quick text to my husband (to avoid the surprise when we walked in the house with thirty-five pounds of fruit) we loaded up and headed home.

On the drive we talked about what we should do. Bake? Jam? Freeze? It felt like the sky was the limit. My oldest son has a thing for jam, so with a quick stop at the store we grabbed the supplies we would need and got to work.

We ended up quick freezing the blueberries, spreading them out on trays in the deep freezer, we transfered them to gallon sized Ziplock bags when they were frozen. We decided this was the best option since the berries were still on the early side they would be best for baking. So far we've made scones, pancakes, and smoothies with them. My strange children also really like eating frozen blueberries on hot days. We'll definitely head back for more blueberry picking before the end of the season.

The kids decided that we should make jam out of the cherries. All I could think about was pitting twenty pounds of cherries, but their excitment won me over. My son feels a certain way about using pectin, so we used granulated sugar and lemon juice instead. Here was our process:

  1. Wash & pit all of the cherries: this included most of us using pairing knives and our five year old using the super fun cherry pitter. Measure all of the cherries you have after pitting, and put into a big stock pot.

  2. Add 2/3 cup sugar and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice per two cups of cherries. I made my son do this math while I pitted cherries for eternity (that was a slight exageration). Squeezing lemons was a great alternative for the kids from pitting cherries.

  3. Bring the cherries to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer and thicken. With a small amount of cherries this should take about 15 minutes, for us it took about three hours.

  4. Pull the pot off the heat and mash with a potato masher or fork to reach the consistency you prefer.

  5. When the jam is thick (seriously thick, like globular on a cold plate) you know you're done.

  6. You can store in the fridge for up to three weeks, freezer for up to a year, or can to be shelf stable for up to a year.

Our innitial plan was to can the jam for gifts, but around 11pm that night when it was still on the stove I made the executive decision we would be making freezer jam instead. We poured all of the jam into smaller containers with lids and left on the counter to cool until morning.

In a true moment of "Melissa likes to take on big ideas with limited available time" once the cherry jam was on the stove, my kids convinced me we should also make strawberry jam. So we did. We followed the same recipe as above. Since we had fewer strawberries than cherries and they were much faster to wash and cut, the two jams finished within about twenty minutes of each other. I appreciated this efficiency and am glad we pushed to do everything at the same time.

One of the things I enjoy about making jam is that there are always enough jobs for the kids to help with during the prep phase. Now we have a years supply of delicious jam from one day of work. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

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