For jam, ground cherries are as versatile as figs. Myriad little seeds create a textural and visual resemblance to green fig jam. Recalling a lovely orange fig jam of two years ago, and ground cherry jam with rosemary that I wrote about but didn’t post, I decided to use up all of the accumulated ground cherries in one go. Ground cherries, also known as husk cherries and cape gooseberries, are relatives of the tomatillo, growing to fill out papery puffs hanging like lanterns on branching vines. This year’s crops of both ground cherries and tomatillos – from our CSA – yielded diminutive fruit, probably because of weather condtions. Ground cherries were the size of peas rather than small cherry tomatoes as in the past. You harvest them after they fall to the ground (hence the name) but it’s best to let them sit in a bowl to ripen to a yellow shade. Too green and they could bother your digestion.
Orange Groundcherry Jam with Rosemary
1½ qts ground cherries, yielding 2½ c after husking
2/3 c water
Approximately 1 c sugar
1 tbsp grated orange zest
Small sprigs of rosemary
Make sure the groundcherries are free of dust and dirt. Place them in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until the groundcherries start to collapse, and mash them lightly with the back of a spoon.
Remove from the heat and measure the fruit. Return the fruit to the pan and add sugar equal to half the measure of fruit. I had 2 cups fruit, so I added one cup of sugar.
Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest, stirring to combine. Place a crumpled piece of parchment paper on top of the jam and set it aside for 2-3 hours or overnight (in which case it should be refrigerated. The purpose of this step is to build up the gelling capacity.)
Prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Start testing for gel. Mine reached gel stage in less than ten minutes. Pour into prepared jars. Submerge a few leaves of rosemary (3-4 leaves) in the hot jam, making sure they are covered and not harboring air pockets.
Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat and remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes 1 pint (4 four-ounce jars).