Saturday, September 21, 2013

Foodie at the Farmers’ Market
What’s cooking? Ground Cherry Shazam

Every once in a while, a new fruit or vegetable shows up at my farmers’ market, issuing a siren call of sorts to people like me who are intrigued with the unusual taste or texture, to see what can be made of these foods. The latest to appear in our New Jersey market was ground cherries. Not ground-up cherries, mind you, but ground cherries, which are closely related to tomatillos. In fact, in their paper-lantern shells, ground cherries look like miniature versions of tomatillos.

The taste, however, is nothing like tomatillos. They’re sweet-tart, with a flavor many think reminds them of pineapple. Not me. To me, it’s a more mysterious flavor – think tomato crossed with melon. The berries, known also as Cape gooseberries, reach about a half-inch in diameter, and are yellow to bright orange, with numerous seeds like tomatoes.

They’re wonderful in fruit salads, pies, tarts, and jam. I first had them in Portugal, where they were served as a garnish with dessert, husks pulled back like leaves and berries dipped in a micro-thin candy coating. They’re also delicious pulled straight from their husks.

I was aiming for jam when I started this project, but it never set (gelled). I asked a friend who’s a pro at jams and jellies if she thought I should re-boil it. “No,” she said. “I’d just call it syrup.” But it’s thicker than syrup, yet thinner than jam. I call it Shazam. When you taste it, you’ll know it’s the perfect name.

Ground Cherry Shazam on yogurt.

What can you do with Shazam?

■ Spoon it over fresh goat cheese as an appetizer with crackers;
■ Stir it into Greek yogurt for breakfast or dessert;
■ Spread it on toast; or
■ Drizzle it as a glaze over chicken or pork before baking.

Use your imagination. I’m saving some jars of it to give as Christmas gifts if I don’t eat it all first. And if you don’t want to make so much – or shell so many ground cherries – this recipe is easily halved.

Ground Cherry Shazam on crostini with hummus.

Ground Cherry Shazam

Makes 5 half-pint jars.

36 ounces husked ground cherries (from 6 pint baskets)
4½ tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons), plus 2 long, inch-wide strips of lemon zest
3 cups sugar
2 large sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons Domaine De Canton French Ginger Liqueur (optional)

In a large, heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan or an enameled cast iron pot (I use a 5.5-quart Le Creuset French oven), combine the ground cherries, the lemon juice, and the sugar. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Place a round of parchment paper on top of the mixture to keep a skin from forming, cover the pot, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

The next day, remove the parchment paper, place the pan over medium high heat, and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Continue to boil the mixture for 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime, place a small plate in the freezer. After 10 minutes, test for the preserves to set by dribbling a spoonful onto the frozen plate and let it sit back in the freezer 2 minutes. If it turns into a soft get that moves only slightly when you tip the plate, the jam is set. Remove the mixture from the heat. If after 20 minutes, the jam still doesn’t appear to be setting, remove it from the heat anyhow. (Now you, too, have shazam!)

Stir the thyme and lemon rind into the mix and cover the pot. Let the preserves steep for 5-10 minutes, then remove the thyme and the lemon zest and stir in the liqueur if using. I take a potato masher at this point and smash about half the fruit – I like the look of the tiny seeds and the variations in texture.

Ladle the shazam (or jam) into clean Ball jars. Store in the fridge or process as for preserves.


  1. What a beautiful, bright blog on this rainy day (in Georgia)!
    I believe everyone will be hoping for Shazam, rather than just regular ole sounding jam...
    Trending soon, I can tell!

    Eileen in Atlanta

    1. You are such a trend-spotter, Eileen -- I hope you're right!

  2. Hi. Loved the napkins!! Your photography is beautiful and I do enjoy those cherries. Thinking about you! Karen

    1. You know, I really think the napkin makes the photo. You have such good taste!