Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Leona Valley yellow cherry jam

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Hobart's Cherries, a family-owned orchard on a hillside in southern California's Leona Valley, has one tree that bears pure yellow cherries. We found it by accident last year when a friend and I took our kids up for the morning to pick cherries. We'd climbed through the whole orchard of Bings and Brooks, filling our buckets, and we'd crowed when we spotted a few trees loaded with blushing Rainiers.

And then we saw one gnarled tree covered with small, pale yellow, perfect cherries. We mistook them for Rainiers at first, but there wasn't a tinge of pink anywhere. They tasted different, too: less sweet, but not quite sour. We picked some but didn't think to ask about them when we weighed in and paid. They got lost in the shuffle, mixed in with the crowd.

This year we made the trek to Leona Valley again, and after picking 20 pounds (yes, really) at another orchard, Emery insisted we stop at Hobart's. Not that we needed more cherries - but he had to have the elusive yellow ones. The orchard manager walked us to the back of the orchard. "Stone Hardy Gold," he said. "It's the only one in the valley. I should take some cuttings, I guess, plant a few more."

Not too many people go looking for the Stone Hardy Golds, apparently, and that's a shame, because they've got that ethereal heirloom flavor: complex, each cherry a little different, bred neither for size nor for sugar content. Pitting them took a long time, but the simple jam I made with them is phenomenal and worth the effort.

 

This method works with any cherries. If you happen to find Stone Hardy Golds, so much the better.

Yellow cherry jam
  • 1 lb Stone Hardy Gold yellow cherries (or any variety)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
Pit the cherries (my favorite gadget for this task is the Oxo Good Grips Cherry Pitter). Put them in a pot with the sugar and lemon juice and mix to combine. Let the cherries macerate in the sugar at room temperature for at least an hour and up to two hours; the sugar will draw the juices out of the fruit, and the cherries will end up bathed in a sweet juicy syrup.

Bring the cherry mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat somewhat so the jam doesn't boil over and make a huge mess on your stove. (And yes, I speak from experience here.) Skim the foam from the top of the jam as it rises. Boil the mixture about 40 minutes, or until the juices have thickened a bit.

Ladle the jam into hot, clean jars. You can either process them in a hot-water bath like the canning goddesses do, or you can take the lazy cook's way and put the jars into the refrigerator after they cool. Either way, the jam is not likely to last long once you taste it, for obvious reasons. Especially if you use it to top a slice of Brie on toast, as shown above.


Cherry

25 comments:

Monet said...

What a beautiful hue! I would walk miles to find a cherry tree like this. I love the contrast of this jam on the bread and cheese. Just stunning!

FJK said...

the jam seems like it would taste wonderful and the photo is a winner, too. I love heirloom fruit!

Erika said...

Thanks for the compliments on the photo! I had a real dilemma figuring out how to photograph this - the color is great, but jam is so SHINY....

Lana @ Never Enough Thyme said...

I've never heard of yellow cherries! Always glad to learn something new. The jam is perfectly beautiful and I'll bet it is just delicious.

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

I want to go cherry picking! Why did I not know this was an option? And your jam looks gorgeous!

My Man's Belly said...

This looks fantastic and on top of brie - YUM! I think I'm going up this weekend for the sour cherries. Need any or do you want to go?

Erika said...

@Lana - thank you!

@Kate - I cannot believe you grew up here and didn't know you could go pick cherries in Leona Valley. Every year, in June. The season was late this year because we had such a cool winter and spring, so if you can tear yourself away from unpacking, you can go this weekend....

@Belly - you should call ahead - we were told there is only one orchard with sour cherries and they will likely not be ripe for another week or two because of the cool weather. But if you go, YES PLEASE!

SMITH BITES said...

Wow Erika ~ that photo is a real stunner! And the jam ain't half bad either!

Ken said...

I second the brie idea! GREG (sippitysup) I am in Palm Springs and away from my computer so my ID says, Ken.

Erika said...

Jam and brie - my fave combination. Pretty good with blue cheese too! Have fun in the desert Greg!

Amanda said...

That is just beautiful!

Deb P said...

I am so excited to have a recipe for this Cherry and also to Finally know what it is actually called, I never forgot this Cherry I loved as a child, you know tastes and smells take you back home well this was one of my favorite berries. Never knew it was an actual Cherry so great to know it is Stone Hardy Gold. My mother gave me a fruit three that had been grafted with three different fruits, but we didn't know what they were, Had to plant the tree and wait till it grew out and produced fruit, to my happiness the berry I never forgot was the main tree the others had been grafted to, but now what was I going to do with all those beautiful Yellow Cherries. WELL THANKS TO YOUR POST I now know I can make JAM! yea. can't thank you enough. and a life long mystery has been solved. tks Debbie

Erika said...

Deb - I love the idea of a Surprise Tree! I'm tickled that this post helped you solve a lifelong mystery. Just to clarify, Stone Hardy Gold is the name the orchard manager gave me, and I didn't cross-check it against official resources. Regardless, they are cherries, they are pure yellow, and they are really unique. Thank you for commenting!

Anonymous said...

I'm from Trinidad in the Caribbean and we call these Sour Cherries and can be found practically everywhere.....makes a great pepper cherry (anchar style) too.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Anon - interesting - these cherries aren't really sour though. I wonder if it's the same thing?

Nerissa (Anon) said...

Hi Erika....No, they are not really sour but that's just the name we know it by.....I'm looking through a window right now at a tree that's laden with it and the fruit looks quite like the one in the photo...mostly it's preserved (like red mango) and exported....Still I could be wrong but it sure looks the same :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post! Glad to have found it. . . We had a lot more yellow cherries this year than expected (we only have one tree!!), and we just don't know what to do with them all. Gonna give it a try, hope my jam comes out as good as yours looks!
Monica
Velarde, NM

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! We have a tree in Northern NM and it produces delicious sweet, not too sour, cheeries most every year when they don't freeze. This year my daughter and I will make jam. Mom always used to make it. I'm also going to try making a cheery pie (never tried yellow before). Juanita and Monica

Anonymous said...

I live in the Oakland (CA) hills and today on a walk I came across a stand of these trees -- I have driven by this spot thousands of time and walked by many times as well (we have lived on this hill for 35 years). I picked a few and brought them home -- never seen these before. But now I am going to make this cherry jam! Someone, or the city (can't imagine this) planted them years ago -- there are 4 or 5 trees among redwoods, oaks, and bays. Unbelievable. I am excited!

Erika Kerekes said...

@Anon in Oakland - you lucky duck!

Kate from Food From Our Life said...

We are delighted to find this recipe - our fruit try in a rented house has copious amounts of cherries, I um'd & arh'd between them being cherries or plums, but finding your photo confirms it, they're yellow cherries! So Yellow Cherry Jam it is - I am thinking they're organic as well as the tree is HUGE & the garden is unkempt :D happy days here in Oz!

Erika Kerekes said...

@Kate happy days in Oz indeed! Any chance you can ship some of that jam over this way? :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! Have been scouring the internet for a yellow cherry recipe but they are few and far between. Currently staying with a family member who has the most enormous cherry tree and am going to try your recipe today.

Anonymous said...

Just to update from my last comment - jam turned out wonderfully. I added ginger to add a little zing and it really worked. Thanks again.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Anon Ginger, what a great idea!

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