Friday, May 7, 2010

Ground Cherry and Red Chili Jam

At most Southern "get-togethers" someone will bring a block of cream cheese dressed with a peach and jalapeno jelly. Guests can take a spoonful of this spread to slather on a cracker. It tastes divine and disappears quickly. This Southern appetizer is the inspiration for my ground cherry and red chili jam.

Ground cherries are in abundance at the local markets here in Quebec. I have seen them before, but I couldn't resist a 2 punnets for a $1 sale while doing some grocery shopping this week. I had no clue what I was going to do with them but I bought 6 containers. Since this is my first time cooking them, after popping a few in my mouth, I decided to start simple by making a jam. The ground cherry's flavor has been described as tomato-pineapple like. Not only can this jam be used as a spread with cream cheese on crackers, but it can be spooned over a savory corn muffin or as an accompaniment to chicken or pork dishes. Chicken and jam! Yum!

This recipe only calls for three ingredients. No sugar, pectin or gelatin here. Most jams and jellies have loads of sugar. A high sugar content keeps preserves from spoiling due to bacterial contamination. Since I have not used sugar, this jam will only keep for about a week in the refrigerator. Ground cherries are sweet enough without adding sugar. Pectin and gelatin are used to thicken the fruit and syrup. Pectin must have sugar to set properly. There are brands available that will "set" without the high sugar content - Pomona's Pectin is one I have read about and might try one day. Gelatin is made from the collagen in animal bones. There are many folks that won't eat it. I have used arrowroot to thicken this small batch of jam. Arrowroot can be found in most health food areas of the grocery store or natural food stores.

4 cups (550g) ground cherries, husks removed, washed
4 small red chili peppers, seeds and veins removed, finely chopped
2 teaspoons arrowroot starch

In a medium pot, cook the cherries for 5 minutes over medium heat. The cherries will begin to burst. Use a wooden spoon to help them pop. Stir in the chili peppers. 

Whisk the arrowroot into about 1 tablespoon of water to dilute; add to the pot. Whisk the mixture for another 5-7 minutes or until you have a jam-like consistency.

Makes about 1 cup of jam which should keep for about a week in the refrigerator. This jam is not safe for canning purposes.

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