cranberry jam

cranberry jam

cranberry jam cooking

The thing is when you cook a sack of cranberries in a small amount of water they pop. Pow! Pop! Pfffsssst. It's fun. They get to popping immediately. The berries have four little air chambers that when heated pop and they spill out their guts into the water releasing pectin as they do so. The pectin thickens the water. You may want to add more water, or boil it down depending on how much pectin they release and how much water you started with.

The other thing is that those sacks of cranberries are inconsistent due to variations in the farm, the harvest, decision on flooding, vigor of shaking, method of sorting, handling, packaging, transportation, storage, light, age, and so forth, the season, le terroir as it were. So you must taste it and judge for yourself what you think the popping bubbling mixture could use in that moment of your tasting. It's all whim and impulse, intuition and I suppose confidence in your own tasting-judgement.

You can leave the mixture with the skins suspended, which is kind of fun, or you can process to any degree of refinement. I used an immersion blender because that thing is just so much fun. I scootch it around the pot while it's boiling chasing around the berries, lifting it and dropping it on top of the berries and listen to them go "praaaarp," and keep doing that until they're mostly all gone. I noticed there were little red dots on two kitchen walls when I finished, so cleanup involved a few walls too. I kept checking my shirt for red dots but didn't see any. My eyeglasses had a red dot on them.

My mixture tasted not so powerfully tart as I was expecting, which was a little bit disappointing, so in tentative amounts and between sequential tastings I added:

* White sugar. Tasted. Hardly had any effect at all.
* More white sugar. Tasted.
* Pinch of salt.
* 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder. Tasted.
* 1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder. Not one of my favorite spice combinations but I was going for umami here. I figured it would meld into the mixture and alter it giving it depth that it lacked. Tasted. Was disappointed. I thought, "This stuff needs some BANG!"
* 1/2 teaspoon chipolte. Tasted. This had a rather unpleasant effect. The smokiness of chipotle took it in the wrong direction. I should have used a cleaner, purer, chile.
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Tasted. Not enough. 1/2 teaspoon more cinnamon and another 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder while I was at it. Tasted.
Still lacking oomph. Here I analyzed what the heck was wrong with this. It just wasn't working.
* 2 Tablespoons brown sugar. Tasted. Analyzed. Pondered. Debated internally. I was still looking for depth.
* 1/4 Cup white wine. Tasted. BANG! That did it. Finished. I should have thought of that earlier -- some kind of alcohol, possibly even vanilla. I thought of grated orange peel but I didn't have an orange. I did have apples and limes but I rejected those. I also rejected butter, because whatdoyou think I'm crazy?

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