Jamming with Rosemary is not a hipster jazz gig. It’s just my way of taking advantage of the season. Of all the woody herbs in my garden, rosemary is the least likely to over-winter. Before it gets too cold, I like to give my plants a good haircut. When you prune a plant, it starts growing, so you will definitely kill it if you trim it close to frost time. With plenty of husk cherries falling to the ground ready to harvest, I decided to make one of my favorites: Husk Cherry Jam with Orange and Rosemary.
Husk cherries, if you don’t know them, look like tiny paper lanterns and contain a small yellow sweet-tart berry inside. They’re also sometimes called ground cherries (since you harvest them after they’ve fallen off the plant) or cape gooseberries. I throw them into salad, pair them with tomatoes, cook them with their cousin tomatillos to make salsa, or turn them into delicious jam. When they’re cooked, they have a taste that reminds me of vanilla. Even holding back on sugar, they’re a little cloying so I tend to seek a counterpoint. Orange zest and rosemary do the trick.
I do exactly the same thing with fig preserves but use lemon zest instead of orange. Both of these jams are fantastic in the dead of winter, served with runny Brie, thinly sliced prosciutto or speck, and homemade rosemary crackers.
Husk Cherry Jam with Orange and Rosemary
1½ qts husk 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 husk cherries are free of dust and dirt. Place them in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until the fruit starts to collapse, and mash it 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. (I had 2 cups of 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 and a sprig of rosemary, 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. Remove the cooked sprig of rosemary. Pour into prepared jars. Submerge 3-4 individual rosemary leaves of in each jar of 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 4 four-ounce jars.