Ground Cherry Jam

Since they are so prolific we made ground cherry jam

Ground cherries with and without husks.

 

Ground cherries, also called Cape Gooseberries (it’s not a true gooseberry), are small husk covered, orange-ish colored fruit and are of the solanaceae family. That’s right, the tomato, tomatillo, and potato clan. Some also call them Chinese lanterns because of the papery husk. The fruit is about 1/4 inch to 3/4 inches in diameter, most being about 1/2 inch. Harvesting them is a cinch, just wait until they fall off the plant and pick them off the ground. They taste sweet with a mild pineapple taste? Almost? Maybe a little strawberry, or green apple without the tartness. I know the description is less than helpful but it really is a taste to experience. As with many who have tasted ground cherries you will not be disappointed.

We planted about eighteen Aunt Molly’s variety plants grown from seeds bought through Seed Savers Exchange. (Update! The seeds are from Hudson Valley Seed Library.) I’ll be blunt…the plant is prolific and the darn thing will spread to three to four feet across. So you can imagine how eighteen of them look in our garden. It goes without saying we have and abundance of ground cherries this year, and the harvest is not over. We have about 14 cups frozen and another twenty four or more on the plants. Fortunately, they are delicious so the excess fruit will not go to waste.

One of the cool things about them is if kept out of light and away from heat they’ll keep for three or four weeks. Our last picking was left on the covered deck for almost two weeks and they were fine. We had some on the kitchen counter as a test for two weeks. Sturdy little buggers they are. As a bonus they freeze quite well.

Now comes the hard part. If you are going to use them in any quantity they are time consuming to get out of the husk. If you are going to pop a handful for munching it’s not much of a problem. But to de-husk six cups for a pie or jam you’re going to want to a helper. The ironic part is the cherry comes right out of the husk with just a squeeze of the stem end. Quick enough unless you are working on a peck basket full of them. But like I said, the good things rarely come easy.

Anyway, I’ve got six cups of ground cherries and I’m sure as heck not letting them go to waste. So I decided to make jam. Which I guess is a little weird because ground cherries are somewhere in between sweet and savory. The finished product is a conundrum. It’s easily one of the tastiest preserves I’ve made but where to use it is somewhat up in the air. As a jam it’s incredible and I think it would be a great addition to a fish dish somehow. Here is the recipe.

(I use Pomona’s Pectin because it allows you to cut the processed sugar to almost nil. I’ll do a post on Pomona’s soon to introduce you to this incredible product. With Pomona’s you must make sure you add the calcium water to the hot fruit in the pot then add the pectin/sweetener.)

 

Ground Cherry Jam

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 7, eight ounce jars

Ingredients

  • 6 cups hulled ground cherries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mild flavored honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 tsp calcium water
  • 4 tsp Pomona's pectin powder

Instructions

  1. Have your jars and boiling water canner ready prior to starting the canning process.
  2. Cook the ground cherries in 1/2 cup of water until they break open. Use a potato masher to help along. Add the lemon juice. and cook for 10 minutes
  3. Puree the ground cherries in a food processor or with a stick blender
  4. Mix the sweetener (honey or sugar) with the Pomona's Pectin powder thoroughly. Set aside.
  5. Add the vanilla and Pomona's calcium water stirring to mix well. Then stir in the pectin/sweetner and bring to a roiling boil for two minutes or as stated on the Pomona's Pectin instructions.
  6. Process into glass jars and boil for 15 minutes or more in boiling water.
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  • reply Johnem ,

    Hey guys.How can i make ground cherry jam and totally avoid any seeds at the end of it all.I mean totally seedless ground cherry jam

    • reply Dave ,

      Hello Johnem,

      Wow! Totally seedless, eh? As you probably know the seeds in ground cherries are tiny…really tiny. The only way I can think of doing this would be to strain the cooked GCs through a very fine strainer as if you were making grape jelly. Maybe you can cook them down and then strain through a nylon stocking. Then add the juice back to the pan and proceed as normal. You’ll probably lose a lot of the pulp in a stocking so I guess I’d look for a very fine strainer first.

    • reply Micaela ,

      I don’t see the amount of pectin to use listed on the recipe. ?

      • reply Dave ,

        Micela,

        I’m sorry about that. I updated the recipe software and the pectin ingredients disappeared. I just fixed that so take another look.

        Do you grow your own ground cherries or do you buy them?

        Dave

        • reply Micaela ,

          Cool–thanks! I’m growing our own ground cherries, but this is our first year. I looked for Pamona’s Pectin at the store today, but they didn’t have any :( What is calcium water? Thanks for sharing your recipe!

          • Dave ,

            Micaela, Calcium water is what makes Pomona’s set. A packet of powder comes in each box.

      • reply June ,

        Thanks for the ground cherry jam recipe…I’m making it as I type…problem is…I don’t see where you say how much of the pectin or calcium water you used for 6 cups of ground cherries. The Pomona’s pkg says for 4 cups of mashed berries you are to use 2 teaspoons of each…but what about for 6 cups of whole berries?!?

        • reply Dave ,

          Scale up the recipe. Use 2x the amount of pectin and citric in a 2x batch. Ditto for 3x bactch.

        • reply Dave ,

          Mine didn’t set so I decided it would be ground cherry sauce for pancakes or ice cream.

          This year I also dehydrated them. Just cut them in half and place in dehydrator…ground cherry raisins!

          • reply Michael ,

            Ground Cherries are naturally high in pectin, so its unnecessary to add any. I make my jam without using any and it turns out great! I just found this recipe and am excited to try with honey and vanilla. Thanks for posting.

            • reply Lyda Benson ,

              I will do this next year. Too late this growing season. Thank you.

              • reply Dave ,

                Lyda, I didn’t plant this year but still have volunteers popping up around the garden. I’ll let some grow for this years pies!

                • reply Lyda Benson ,

                  Enjoy!

              • reply Lyda Benson ,

                I am in search of ground cherry jam. I would love to buy a pint from you if you would sell it to me. My uncle is 85 years old a talks of this jam from his childhood. He was unsuccessful in growing them from the seeds I purchased for him. I will attempt to grow them myself next year, if he lives that long. I can send you a check, a casiers check and cover shipping, whatever it takes for my favorite uncle. I know this is an unusual request, however, he is my favorite uncle.
                Sincerely
                Lyda Benson

                • reply Dave ,

                  Lyda, I’m so sorry but I don’t have any left to offer. If you start the seeds now they will be ready to harvest in early September. I hope all goes well for your uncle.

                  Dave

                  • reply Kathy ,

                    Lyda,
                    Are you still looking for some ground cherry jam? My daughter makes the jam for her canning project in 4H. We would love to share a jar with your uncle! Email me your address and I’ll send one off! :)

                    • reply Tom Robertson ,

                      Would love to buy some

                      • Dave ,

                        I’m sorry Tom. We don’t sell it. We make only enough for ourselves. Give it a go yourself though. They are easy to grow, almost weed like, and the resulting jams, jellies, sauces, pies are great.

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