Whispering through softened giggles, my cousin and I tip-toed to the neighbours’ backyard. We had been chasing each others’ shadows all day, amazed at their untouchably real presence. All that running had our stomachs in knots of hunger, craving all things sweet. In a blink of mischief, we had a simple plan: one of us was to push the other up the crumbly wall, pick as many berries as we could hold and dash into a corner to eat them. Two scraped knees, a handful of squished jewels and berry-stained smiles later, we noticed our shadows. They were closer to us than they’d been all day.
Confused and curious about the shapeshifting shadow, we thought it was punishment for eating before lunch. The air thickened with smells of lunchtime, lickably near. Every home had its palette, some meat-heavy, some sugary and some swelling with simple luxury: bread.
|My Brother's Home-made Ciabatta|
“Kids! Wash your hands!” had us dashing back home on hot cobblestones, barefoot and drooling. A few unpleasant body scrubs later, we had a glorious lunch followed by an event that teased our taste buds into morality. As a practical joke, we were given a bowlful of albaloo. To our eight year old eyes, they looked and felt like cherries; glistening a deep red and perfectly ripe. One bite in, and our faces danced between expressions of pleasure, pain and utter confusion. The cherries were evil! And tart! And jaw-clenchingly sour!
Years later, we have learned two things : Sour Cherry jam is an Iranian favourite and shadows are shorter at noon.
Here is my Mother’s recipe for Albaloo (Sour Cherry) Jam with a personal twist:
|Albaloo (Sour Cherry) Jam|
Albaloo (Sour Cherry) Jam
- 5 cups Sour Cherries ( I used the frozen variety, available in specialty Persian/Middle Eastern stores)
- 2 cups raw sugar (or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup honey)
- 2 Apples (Granny Smith), skin on, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Sterilized jars.
- Toss all ingredients, except the lemon zest, into a heavy pot over medium heat.
- Bring everything to a gentle boil, and let everything cook and mingle.
- Stir frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent the mixture from forming a burnt layer of gooey bitterness at the bottom of the pot.
- The mixture will form a frothy layer on top. Some people insist on scooping it off. I didn’t, because the froth then turned a sweet film of jam as it cooled.
- In about 40-50 minutes, the mixture will have reduced considerably.
- Turn off the heat. If you like your jam chunky, then skip the next step.
- Using a hand blender, puree everything into a smooth consistency.
- If the mixture is too runny, place the pot back onto medium heat and cook off the excess liquid.
- Once the mixture reaches desired depth and thickness, turn off the heat.
- Stir in the lemon zest. Taste and adjust lemon or salt content to balance the acidity.
- This mixture will thicken as it cools.
- There are two primary ways of preserving this.
- ONE: Pouring the cooled jam into freshly sterilised jars (Jars that have been recently washed with soap and hot water, and dried. Do not touch the inside of the jars). These will keep upto three months in the fridge.
- TWO: This method allows for longer preservation. Processing. This seals up the jars and gives them a better shelf life. Please click here for a link.
Sour Cherries are called Albaloo in Farsi. It is pronounced all-baw-loo.
Here is some more information about sour cherries in Canada.
For the health-curious souls among you, here's some information about Cherries in general.