Nostradamus Cherry JellyHome >> Recipes
Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566) is better known as Nostradamus, the man whose prophecies are still quoted everytime a plane goes down or a tall building blows up. While his prophecies do not always hold water, Nostradamus was real enough. I visited his birth house in the gorgeous town of St-Rémy de Provence. They even have a plaque for him.
Most people don't know that Nostradamus' first book was not about the future but spoke of the secrets of making jams and jellies. His «EXCELLENT & USEFUL Treatise to all Needed who want Knowledge of Several Exquisite Recipes ... Newly Composed by Master Michel de Nostredame, Doctor of Medicine in the city of Salon de Craux en Provence.» was published in 1555. As he explains in the introduction, the book is intended «...to satisfy the Will and Affection of several Nice Characters, even of the Female Sex, who are greedy of knowing and understanding novel things».
No surprise that a man curious of all things born in Provence would become interested in jams. After all, the confectionery industry is big in Provence. With all this sun, it is no mystery. like a soldier in the Swiss army, the fruit grower must wait until he is in a hurry, then hurry only to wait some more. The fruit production takes a whole year of patient care to plan and organize, then suddendly all trees in the orchard crumble under tons of ripe fruits - all at the same time. With no cold storage, what can you do with that much fruit? They are bound to rot in a few days. There are a few solutions - not all tasty. Dry the fruits in the sun. Ferment and distill them. Or boil them in sugar to store in little jars to be opened when the sun will be no more.
I've been meaning to make this recipe for a year now, and finally did it last week for my 200th article on FXcuisine.com. In his book, Nostradamus gives two recipes for Jelly of Cherry «To do Jelly of Cherryes that is so Clear & Vermillion like a fine Rubey, & of Goodness, Taste & Virtue Excellent, that the Cherryes will Preserve Long in Perfection without adding anything but the Fruit: & will be fit to present to a King for their Supreme Excellence.». I used the second recipe called «Another Way to make Jelly of Cherryes, that is more Delicate than the First but it is more Dear & is for Great Lords ». My translation of the French text tries to honor the flowery Old French original. It draws a couple expressions from the first recipe but the procedure is exactly as Nostradamus said. Use 1 pound of sugar for 4 pounds of stemmed cherries. You can read the full text in old French, pages 154-155, 156-157, 158-159 and 160-161.
I will now follow the master's instructions.
« Take Cherryes the most Beautiful & most Rype that can be found, in the quantity you wish, and remove the Foot [...] if the Cherryes are not Rype, that they are Green even a Bit, they will be so Sour that they will cause Stupefaction to your Teeth ..»
«Take Sugar that is Nice & put it in coarse Powder & place in a Pan & it should have weight of two Pounds, & take Cherryes that you have removed the Foot, the Weight of Six or Seven Pounds, and Grate and Rub them Coarseley with Clean Hands »
« Place in the Pan where the Sugar is and Place on the Fire to Boil until Half, moving with a clean Stick...»
« ... and Press them. »
« When all has been well pressed ... »
« ... and that only the Bones & Bark remains ...»
« ...take what will have come out & will Boil it in another Pan on low fire Watching all the Time if it is Cooked : because it will Reduce much & taking Always with the Paddle or Silver Spoon to see if it is Cookes. »
« Keep away from giving it too much fire as it would go over or burn itself: as it is better for the Jelly to be a little Green than too Cooked: because when Stored its Sugar makes it Dry ...»
« When you will see that it is Cooked, that is a drop put on Marble, the drop remains tight and Round without Falling neither here nore there, or placed on a piece of tin or on a Knife or Glass the drop will be as Vermillion as a perfect Claret Wine: »
«When it is Cooked you will put it in little Jars of Glass or Wood like you would Quince Jelly. And when your Jelly will be Colde and Tight, you will have a Mode and Type of Jelly that you can't have Better Jelly of Cherryes, nor more Excellent in Beauty and Goodness; »
«You will place it in Glass Jars not too Deep: & leave it cool down, and if afterwards you look through the Sun's light you will find it as Beautiful as a Ruby. You have to show or give to some great Prince or high Lord when they will be angry with the Heat or otherwise altered they will find the Jam hearty & Delicious & Without Defects. And if you do it like I have put on Paper, undoubtedly you will do a Jelly in all Perfection. »
Nostradamus is a man of his word when he says that this jam is fit for a king. Out of a full kilogram (2 pounds) of the finest Swiss cherries, I managed to produce half a cup of cherry jelly. There is something magical in managing to capture and preserve the essence of a fruit, to retain its color and flavor for admiration during the winter months. You can try his recipe too, not much has changed in the world of proper home jam-making since Nostradamus' time.