Kids really change your world. Just when you think you have it all figured out, they turn everything upside down and you’re left eternally changed.
Several years ago, I left my safe, secure, steady job to become a stay-at-home mom. It was a difficult decision, but one that was bred from a strong desire to not miss the small moments with my children. I was halfway through my pregnancy with child number two when I walked away from my position as a municipal secretary and ventured into the great unknown of SAHM-hood.
There have been many ups and downs along the way. Like the time I tried to sneak a shower in while my then-two-years-old daughter watched a PBS program one morning. 5 minutes. I was only in the bathroom for 5 minutes. It’s amazing the destruction a toddler can wreak in such a short span of time.
I peeked my head out from the bathroom, still wrapped in a towel, to be sure my daughter was okay–and was met with a crime scene. Red splatters everywhere… all over the kitchen floor, the living room floor, the couch…everywhere. Terrified, I looked for my daughter, thinking she was somehow injured. Oh, but she was not injured. No, she was perfectly okay. And she had just gleefully smeared $7 worth of cherries all over the apartment. She couldn’t have been more thrilled!
In the grand scheme, $7 isn’t much. But at the time, it was an incredibly frustrating exercise in the wanton wastefulness of youth. And how awful it is to clean up smushed cherries from every crevice possible. I didn’t buy cherries again for two years.
Sometimes, life gets messy. We know this without a doubt. We have a tendency to then avoid the things that may make our lives less comfortable, less predictable, less safe. But the fact is, we’re not really living when we do that. We’re accepting a half-life of monotony when what we really should be doing is embracing life’s cherries–even when they’re smushed–and preserving those memories, because life is just too short to hold yourself back. Take every moment and make the most of it. You’ll be grateful later that you did.
Making jam is a great example. It’s hot, sweaty, messy work, but you can treasure it later when you open up that jar 6 months down the road–having long forgotten the day’s labor that brought you that canned memory–and enjoy that moment captured in time. I may have hated cleaning up the house the day my daughter decorated with cherries, but I will treasure the memory eternally as the essence of her youth–a spirited, independent child bent on doing what she pleases, and enjoying every minute of it. Here’s to the memories!
- 4 cups washed, pitted sweet cherries
- juice of 1 large lemon
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half and then lengthwise, seeds scraped
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 tsp amaretto
- Wash and sterilize 2-3 half-pint canning jars, lids, and bands in the water bath canner (large pot full of water, enough to completely submerge the jars, plus 2″ over the top of them), fitted with a wire rack on the bottom to prevent jars from touching the bottom or sides of the pot. Keep jars warm in the canner while you make the recipe, so they won’t crack later when then preserves are ladled into them.
- Wash and pit the cherries (if you have a cherry pitter, like this one from OXO, it’ll go much more quickly). Chop about half of the cherries and then transfer all of them to a large non-reactive stock pot. Add the lemon juice, vanilla bean scrapings, and vanilla bean, then heat over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula. Once the mixture starts bubbling, set your timer and cook for another 20-25 minutes, crushing the cherries several times with a potato masher. Be especially vigilant stirring near the end so as not to burn the cherries and juice.
- Once the cherries are cooked, remove the vanilla bean, discarding it, and stir in the sugars. Cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat and check your set. You can do this by taking a spoon that’s been stored in your freezer and transferring a bit of the preserves to a plate that has also been in the freezer. This should give you an idea of how runny your preserves are. If it’s not set enough, return to the stove and cook for another 2-5 minutes. I stopped at 15 minutes total, which left me with a less-set preserve, but I was fine with that.
- Stir in the amaretto and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to cool a bit, then ladle into prepared jars using a wide-mouth funnel. Leave about ¼″ headspace in the jars. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a wet cloth. Using a magnetic lid lifter, transfer lids to the tops of the jars and then tighten the bands over them just enough to secure the tops–you don’t need to make it super tight, as it’s not the bands that’ll be holding the lids on after processing, but the lids themselves.
- Transfer jars to the water bath canner. Bring the water bath up to a rolling boil, then process for the time recommended for your altitude; where I live, that means 5 minutes–though I boiled for 5 minutes and then left the jars in the canner for another 5 minutes after I turned off the heat, just to be safe. My source recommends processing for 5 minutes for 1001 to 3000 ft elevation, 10 minutes for 3000-6000 ft elevation, and 15 minutes for 6000-8000 ft elevation.
- Remove jars from water bath and cool on wire racks, leaving undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Check the lids for flex–if the lid is concave and doesn’t really move when gently pressed in the middle, the jars are sealed. If the lids is convex and flexy, you should put it in the refrigerator and consume within the next week, just to be safe. Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, for up to one year. Though with only 2 jars, I imagine it’ll be long gone before the year is up