African cherries, a new taste on the farm

A new discovery... the African cherry (Eugenia). I had seen a strange (to me) red berry growing plentifully in a tree on the farm but never gave it much thought until Hannes disclosed in a matter-of-fact, everybody-knows-this sort of way that it was edible. All of a sudden it sounded much more interesting. Apparently African cherries could be used to make delicious jams. I decided to have a go.  I make a mean chutney so perhaps those skills would extend to jam-making... But first the cherries had to be collected and most of them were growing quite far from the ground. I set off with a basket and picked those I could reach but still they didn’t look very many. A ladder seemed a precarious option so after some thought I reversed my bakkie (pickup) to the tree and climbed on the back to pick the next tier of fruit. So the cherries were harvested but what to combine them with? Apple seemed a good choice and some spices. A final squeeze to a wine box yielded a good measure of red wine. Combined with some sugar, bubbled gently on the stove and wow the smell was amazing and result was better than I ever hoped! The colour was an amazing deep purple-red and the taste was really fruity and delicious.

African cherry jam with spiced apple and red wine – you will need 500g African cherries, washed and pitted; 3 or 4 apples, peeled, cored and diced; 175g white sugar; ground spices, a good dash each (I used cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg); a large glass of red wine. Combine all the ingredients in a strong pan, top up with water to the level of the fruit and bring to the boil. Simmer until the liquid has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Sterilise 3 or 4 glass jars and lids with boiling water and allow to dry. Pour or spoon the jam into jars, screw on the lids tightly and leave to cool. Slip a jar onto the breakfast table, sit back and enjoy beautiful complements.

I decided to try something else – cherry crumble, and believe me it was truly scrumptious.

African cherry crumble – for the fruit filling you will need 300g African cherries, washed and pitted; 2 or 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced; 100g white sugar; a good dash of cinnamon. Combine all the ingredients in a strong pan, add 250ml water and bring to the boil. Simmer over a low heat until the fruit is just soft. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Turn off the heat and pour the fruit filling into an oven-proof dish. For the crumble topping you will need 150g rolled oats or muesli; 150g flour (I used 75g wholewheat and 75g plain ‘cake’ flour); 70g sugar (I used 35g brown and 35g caster sugar); 130g butter, from fridge. Put the oats/muesli and flour into a bowl and mix well. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the bowl. Rub the butter into the oats/muesli and flour with your fingertips to create an even crumb texture. If your mixture is too ‘buttery’ add a little more oats or flour. Mix in the sugar. Cover the fruit filling with the crumble mixture. Pop it into a pre-heated oven at 190oC for about 20 minutes until the crumble topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot. Serve with custard, or cream, or ice cream, or whichever way you like, and prepare to be transported to heaven.

So African cherries you have a new fan. And as soon as I can figure out a way to climb further up the tree I will be cooking up some more. Delicious!

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