This well worn keyboard has often waxed poetic about the fine products of American Spoon Foods, a northern Michigan purveyor of all sorts of wonderful fruit preserves. Whenever someone close has a death in the family, instead of sending flowers, I like the East coast custom of sending a fruit basket. The problem with fruit baskets is that you never really know what you are going to get, so I've switched to sending a gift box of goodies from American Spoon instead. After the funeral is done, I think it's nice to have something sweet and tasty to help recover, like a box of breakfast goodies or jam.
Just the other day, I "picked up" some of American Spoon Food's Spoon Fruit that is specially made for Ann Arbor's famous Zingerman's Deli. And when I say "picked up", I mean literally. I was having breakfast at the deli with my old high school friend Nancy, and I accidentally grabbed the wrong shopping bag of the unknown person sitting next to me. It sat on the kitchen counter for a few days before I realized that I had brought home an $8 can of imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil, and a jar of American Spoon Foods Cherry Berry Spoon Fruit. Oops! I wasn't sure how to make this right - after all, there was no way of knowing who it was that I got this from. If it was a coat, I'd return it to the lost and found. Hmmm.....I decided the best thing I could do was just eat it myself. So while the tuna still sits in the pantry, I immediately cracked into the fruit. It was fantastic! Tangy and fruity, it is great on toast, and even straight out of the jar on a spoon. The jar was gone in a day.
So what is this spoon fruit? It's a fruit preserve naturally sweetened with fruit concentrates, without any added sugar. I had to try to make some myself! Reading online, I could see that many people were trying to make preserves without added sugar, but the problem is that pectin needs sugar to set up. Lots of folks use Pomona Pectin (or other products of similar ilk) to reduce the sweetness of the jam or to work with Splenda or agave, but that's just not my canning style. By the way, there is a Ball product now that is much more economical and widely available that Pomona. I wanted something I could make myself, not get out of a box.
However, I have used fruit juice concentrate when I have canned fruit before, so I decided to experiment with using it for jam. I used good old green apples for my pectin source....and the result was out of this world delicious. I had thrown some unpitted sour cherries in the freezer a couple weeks ago, so I defrosted them. Bonus! Frozen thawed cherries are much easier to pit than fresh ones. Who knew? The fruit is softer and I could pit them with my fingers instead of the pitter. It's now blueberry season in Michigan, so I wanted to add them, too. Here's what I came up with:
Cherry Berry Spoon Fruit
Makes about 4 half pints
(can double this but no more than double for one batch)
3 cups pitted sour cherries (sweet ones would work, too)
3 cups blueberries
5 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and chopped small
1 can (12 oz) frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
Heat all ingredients in a preserving pot until mixture reaches gel temp (220 F for my altitude <1000 ft). This takes about an hour or so with vigilant stirring, because it gets sticky toward the end. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Delicious! I can't wait to try to make some other varieties.