1 cherry tree
1 gruff Kiwi bloke
2 lesbian farmers
1 bird net from a local vineyard
2 kg cherries
2 kg sugar
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup red wine
3 tablespoons vanilla essence
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Plant a cherry tree. If you’re lucky you’ll get someone to do this step for you about 5 to 10 years before you start cooking. These things take time.
- Spend at least 2 years being baffled by the fact that the cherries on your tree vanish as soon as they start turning red. Scratch your head in confusion.
- Listen when the gruff Kiwi bloke who is your rural neighbor says, “You’re feeding the birds. Everyone knows you have to net a cherry tree.”
- Make a resolution that, next year, you will net the cherry tree.
- Thank that same rural neighbor when he says, “I have some old bird netting from one of the local vineyards. I’ve got heaps. I’ll give you some.” Realize that gruffness and kindness are not mutually exclusive qualities.
- Watch with pleasure as your neighbor cuts you a length of netting with an old pair of rusty sheep sheers. Thank him again.
- When spring comes, and while the cherries are still green, get out your net. Because your cherry tree has grown tall, also get a ladder and an old broom, or something with a long handle.
- Struggle to get the net up over the top of the tree by yourself, holding it up with the broom. Struggle some more. Become frustrated and finally fail.
- Realize that nobody in the history of humankind has ever made cherry jam alone.
- Ask the two lesbian farmers who lease your paddocks to help you net your cherry tree. If you don’t have any lesbian farmers on hand, ask somebody else.
- Together, get the net up over your cherry tree. Thank your kind helpers several times. When they tell you it’s smart to net the tree, shrug and say, “Everyone knows you have to net a cherry tree.”
- Tie off even the smallest holes in your net with blue twine. Little birds are clever and hungry. Do not allow the tiny monsters a single opening, or you will have no jam.
- When the cherries on your tree are bright red, take off the net. Stand there for a moment and look at the tree. It is full of fruit and incredibly beautiful.
- Climb a ladder and pick your long-awaited cherries. Pop one in your mouth. Be amazed at the bright, sweet taste of a fresh country cherry that came from your very own tree. Eat some more.
- Give a bag of cherries to all three people who have helped you so far. Don’t be stingy. You’ve got heaps.
- Tumble the remaining cherries into your kitchen sink and turn on the tap. Watch them float. Rinse them. Hold them. Be amazed at the beauty in your hands.
- Remove the stems. Cut in half and remove the pits. Add lemon juice and put on a low heat, stirring until soft. Then add sugar, stirring, until it dissolves.
- Turn up to high heat and bring to a rolling boil.
- Get creative. Add maple syrup. Add vanilla. Throw in what’s left of that bottle of Martinborough pinot noir in the back of pantry.
- Cook until a little bit of jam placed on a frozen plate sets and turns gel-like. Be proud of yourself. You are fantastic. Wait. Check again. Are you certain that’s gel-like? Sure, what the heck.
- Ladle your hot jam into hot, sterilized jars. Seal and turn upside down for 2 minutes. Turn upright and set aside until cool.
- Check your jam jars the next morning. Cringe in horror when you realize that your jam has not set. See how terribly runny it is. Be very, very disappointed. You are a total jam failure.
- Wait several days, hoping for a jam-setting miracle. Check your jars compulsively. Watch the jam ooze around inside the jars like some sort of deep red, primordial slime. Rue the day your cherry tree was planted.
- Seriously consider throwing out the entire lot, jam jars and all.
- Then, out of curiosity, open a jar. Dip in a spoon and taste. Be absolutely astonished at how ridiculously good it is! Taste again. Savor the sweet summer cherries, which have become beautifully candied. Enjoy the quiet hints of red wine, maple syrup, and vanilla.
- Be proud. Be very proud. You have created something delicious, of your very own – even if it isn’t what you planned to make. Slap some hand-made labels onto the jars and call it “Candied cherry syrup”.
- When your city friends come out for dinner, serve your gourmet candied cherry syrup on top of delicious vanilla ice cream.
- Sit back and listen to the ‘ooos’ and ‘aaaahs’.
- Break into a deep and heartfelt smile.
Have you ever made something that failed fabulously, or required a community to make?
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