There are two ways of getting cherry jam onto your toast in the morning.
Either grab a jar of cherry jam as you race around the supermarket this evening, or…
…or, do as I did, and spend around an hour picking 3kg of cherries from our first-fruiting cherry tree. It is on a steep slope so the process involves hanging onto the tree with one hand while picking with the other.
Then spend an hour (and that is quick, thanks to my new cherry-pipper) taking the pips out of the cherries. Then boil with lemon juice and cracked pips for about an hour. Then add the sugar and boil until it looks like it might set. Add a knob of butter to dissolve the scum.
Then remember that you have not yet found enough jars (3kg of cherries makes a fair amount of jam) so climb the ladder at the back of the store-room and find the dusty jars. Spend a load more time scrubbing them, washing them out in boiled water, sterilising them for 20 mins at 100ºC in the oven. Now ladle the jam into the jars and, as you do so, spill it over most of the kitchen surfaces too. Seal and label. Clean up pans, cooker, kitchen, my shirt… And you have done it. Cherry Jam, in around four hours.
Easy, isn’t it?
Why do I do this? What primeval urge makes me want to spend four hours, as opposed to about four seconds, making jam for my toast? A hibernating instinct – fill up the store-room for winter? A defensive instinct – cherry jam, in case we are besieged by the Mongol hordes? Hunger and a secret passion for jam? It’s none of these for me. For me, it is having something made with love to give to other people (I know, it is a tragedy to have to write such gushing prose, but it’s true) and it is having home-made things – to make a home. Worth the four hours. I think…