Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam

Feeling bolstered by my success with the strawberry jam repair, but mostly because I can’t stick to recipes for very long, I decided to freestyle my next jam. I had bought a bunch of ground cherries at the market from a very friendly young farmer whose name I don’t know without any real idea of what I was going to do with them. And because ground cherries don’t really grow in Alsace, where Ms. Ferber lives and works, she wasn’t much help.

Ground cherries (also called Cape gooseberries) are unique because, while they are eaten and used like other fruits, in addition to being sweet and tart they also contain umami. Umami is the “new” flavor “discovered” in Japan and is often described as meaty, brothy or just plain “deliciousness.” In fact, when I gave Clare a ground cherry to taste, she said, “It tastes like meat.” This is not entirely surprising because ground cherries are closely related to tomatoes and tomatillos, both of which are rich in glutamic acid, the source of umami.

So, I wanted to find something that complimented the uniqueness of the flavor, but didn’t mask or hide it. I’m not sure if other people have this ability, but I can kinda “visualize” a flavor as a sort of three dimensional object and get a sense of its geography. I’ll use this if I want to brainstorm flavor combinations to see what flavors fit, like a when you’re putting together a puzzle, trying piece after piece. Well, I did this with the ground cherries, thinking about what would fill out the picture and before long I settled on chamomile. I can put words to why I think they work together (the musky, floral aroma of chamomile, reminiscent of honey, and its slightly bitter infusion balance the sweet and tart elements of the ground cherries, while providing a rich canvas on which the cherries’ umami can play out), but the real reason I chose the combination is that they just “fit.”

Ok, enough theory, back to the jam.

Once I’d decided on the components, it was fairly easy to put together a recipe. I started with a basic ground cherry preserve that I found here and pulled out a technique for adding chamomile from Ferber that she uses in a Mirabelle Plum and Chamomile Jam. I worked the two together and off I went.

Here’s how it went:

First, I husked the cherries and washed them.

Then, I made a syrup with sugar, some water and lemon juice. I added the husked berries, brought them to a boil and simmered for five minutes.

The cherries burst, one by one, and turned a beautiful translucent, releasing their seeds into the syrup. I put the cherries into a ceramic bowl and stored them overnight in the fridge with a parchment lid.

The following day, I returned the mixture to a boil, while preparing an infusion of chamomile. Once the tisane was properly steeped, I added it to the boiling jam and kept the whole thing at a simmer until reduced to a proper consistency. Interestingly, the jam had turned a brighter yellow overnight, as you can see in this picture.

The result is a delicious jam that tastes two parts ground cherry, one part honey, one part chamomile and a pinch of lemon. I gave some to Clare to taste and she said, “That’s really good. I was trying to have an open mind and I didn’t even need it!” I’m pretty sure that’s a compliment.

Here’s the final result:

I’m not sure what’s going to come next, but I’ll keep you posted.


6 cups husked and washed ground cherries

5 cups sugar

1 cup water

Juice of one lemon

2 cups chamomile infusion

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add ground cherries and simmer for 5 minutes, until most cherries are burst open. Transfer to ceramic bowl and cover with a parchment lid. Refrigerate overnight. Transfer back to preserving pot and return to a boil. Add chamomile infusion, simmer until proper consistency and can.


Ground Cherries: Nice guy at farmer’s market who’s name I forget

Sugar: Shur Fine Cane Sugar

Lemon: Harmony Valley Fruit CSA

Chamomile: Willy Street Co-op

12 thoughts on “Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam

  1. Laurie | Your Ill-fitting Overcoat says:

    Thanks for the jam, Matt! My housemates and excited to try it, too.

    I searched for something suitably bland to put it on, but all I could find was a freezer-burned gluten-free waffle. While I was waiting for the waffle to toast, I took a sniff and a little nibble of the jam. It smelled mostly like honey to me, initially, and I could definitely taste the ground cherries (I love those things!). It was so good, in fact, that I kept eating it by the spoonful while I waited on the toaster oven.

    Eating it on the waffle, the flavors came out differently. I was surprised how much it tasted like tea! I mean, it REALLY tasted like tea. I like it a lot and would definitely buy it if I ever bought jam (which I actually don’t) and would definitely choose it over something cliched like strawberry-black-pepper (kidding) at a brunch place. I really liked it. One thing I would change is the seeds– maybe a little too crunchy for me!

  2. Clare says:

    A contender for the best jam I have ever eaten!!
    What I liked: The honey flavor (funny, I couldn’t taste the tea at all but I think the tea maybe tastes like honey), the color!, the creaminess of the texture, the way the flavors blended together, not too sweet.
    What I did not like: Nothing
    Suggestions: The crunchiness didn’t bother me but the skins could go and I wouldn’t mind. Hard to say though because maybe it needs that texture.

  3. margaret says:

    um, do you deliver to Chicago? I read some trivia article about umami a few months ago so please continue these meditative preludes! Is umami what makes bacon taste so good (she says, an unabashed carnivore)? Have you seen that goofy bacon bits studded chocolate? It’s strangely good. I don’t suppose jam and chocolate jive, and I certainly don’t have the gift of flavo-geographic imaging, but I just thought i’d put that free-associative and wistfully suggestive train of thought out there. : )

  4. Holly says:

    Reminds me of the days when I use to make jelly from the currents I found in my backyard. I think I’ll try it again. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Laurie | Your Ill-fitting Overcoat says:

    I just tried the jam on a multi-grain english muffin with peanut butter. Hmmm, I don’t know about that flavor combo. It tastes good enough for me to eat it for breakfast every morning until the jam runs out, but I don’t know if I’d suggest it as your star brunch item. Because I’m sure that you were planning to use peanut butter and jelly english muffins as your star brunch item.

  6. davidmatthew says:

    you win the prize for best use of pastries with a ground cherry chamomile jam. You also remind me that I want to figure out how to make English muffins. I love English muffins!

  7. Jennie says:

    Why did you refrigerate the fruit mixture overnight before completiing the jam making process? Curious and in the middle of making my own batch here and don’t want to wait! šŸ™‚

  8. davidmatthew says:

    The reason you leave them overnight is so that the sugar can pull out most of the moisture out of the fruit. It’s a process that is similar to curing meat in salt. The imbalance in water concentration inside the fruit and out means that the water will move to try and balance the situation, a process you may remember from middle school biology called osmosis. Once the moisture is pulled out of the fruit, it is much easier to cook off. It’s important to remove most of the water in the jam, otherwise you open yourself up to the possibility of spoilage. You’ll see in the fig recipe I just posted that it only macerates for 1 hour. This is because figs are far more delicate and give up their moisture far easier and far more quickly.

    That’s the science reason, the emotional reason is that if you have to wait and work for it, it’ll taste that much better when it’s done.

    Be glad you’re not making prosciutto, which can need curing of up to 2 years!

  9. Kathryn says:

    I made this a bit ago and it won me second place in my CSA local food competition! I took the finished jam and baked it into hamantashen (those little triangular shaped cookies with the jam in the middle). Everyone was very impressed and it was a big hit. Thanks again for the recipe! While canning season is almost over, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

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