Sweet and Sour Cherry Preserves

I love sour cherry season… it’s so brief and so delicious.

Chris and I went to Battleview Orchards a few days ago and picked up 6 quarts of sour cherries (about 9.75 lbs) because I had plans… sour cherry crisp, sour cherry liqueur, sour cherry extract, and sour cherry preserves. Reminds me of one of Jack Prelutsky’s poems from It’s Thanksgiving (“turkey puffs and turkey pudding, turkey patties, turkey pies, turkey bisque and turkey burgers, turkey fritters, turkey fries”) – Cary and I would recite those poems over and over at Thanksgiving time.

Anyway, it took 1 hour 15 minutes to wash, stem, and pit the cherries, then 1 hr 45 min to cook them down. It was totally worth it. I combined 2 lbs of dark sweet cherries with 5 lbs of sour cherries, it gave it a really good depth of flavor, almost a hint of warmth like cinnamon even though I didn’t add any.

Chris picked out a cherry pitter at the orchard that worked perfectly. It looks like a hypodermic but works very well and is easy to clean. It’s much easier to pit the sour cherries than the large dark cherries.

pitted

Note: Most cherry preserve recipes call for much more sugar… I don’t like to use so much sugar, I prefer to cook the preserves down for a lot longer so that the sweetness comes out naturally and the preserves get thick and gooey on their own (no added pectin). You’ll have less total output because it cooks down so much, but it tastes so much better.

7 lbs of fruit made 4.5 pints (which I split into 6 half-pint jelly jars and 6 quarter-pint jelly jars).

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs sour cherries (3 quart containers from our local orchard)
  • 2 lbs dark sweet cherries
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

Wash, stem, and pit all of the cherries.

Good tangent: Keep the pits! Use them to make extract (I’m doing that right now), just fill a quart mason jar with all of the pits, which goes about 2/3 of the way up the jar, then fill the remaining space with vodka – let it sit in a dark cool place for a month and then strain it and start using it!) – I didn’t know  this before, but cherry pits are used to make almond extract! Same flavor.

extract

Back to preserves… put the cherries in a large dutch oven (my other long time love, my cherry red Le Creuset) and crush them with a potato masher (don’t mash them to bits, just crush them so that they make it easier to break down.

start

before the crush

Add 1 cup of the sugar and all of the lemon juice and mix together. Turn on the heat to medium and cook it, stirring often. Once the sugar dissolves add another cup. Repeat this until all five cups have been added. Then you’ll have to cook it even longer… in total it took me 1 hr and 45 minutes to cook it down to about 1/3 of it’s original volume. Keep skimming off the pink foam and keep stirring with a silicone spatula/spoon.

You’ll know it’s ready when it starts to make large lava flow-like bubbles that pop and scare you with their violence (not the small fast-boil bubbles that you’ll see in the center throughout the cooking, these lava bubbles are large). If you have a candy thermometer it will be about 220 F.  Dip in a teaspoon and run your finger through it, it will be thickish and the line will stay in place. So good.

cookeddown

Not yet lava bubbles, but getting there!

While it’s all cooking (since you have 1 hr 45 minutes to stand around stirring at the stove), put another large pot on the stove filled with water, bring to a boil, and boil your jelly jars, rings and lids for 10 minutes for each batch. Put down a tea towel, put cooling racks on top, and put your clean hot jars and lids on the racks to wait for the delicious jam.

cleanjars

When the preserves are ready just use a ladle and a jar funnel and fill them. Leave about 1/2-1/4 inch of air space at the top, and close them immediately. The heat of the hot jars and hot jam should make them seal on their own (you’ll hear them pop in the hours that they sit cooling on the counter).

These preserves are delicious on bread of course, but also warmed up a bit with vanilla ice cream or on pound cake or just eaten with a spoon by the light of the fridge.  🙂  I think I’m going to make some butter cookies to make cherry jam sandwich cookies with some of these preserves.

finished

Sour cherry liqueur is up next, stay tuned!

Chewy Cherry Oatmeal Squares (vegan)

This was a recipe I found on Talia Fuhrman’s blog. She’s been raised as a nutritarian and my friend at work let me know about her site. These bars looked like heaven seeing as how I haven’t had sweets in a long time!

barstray

Bars were cut while still a little warm. Center was a tiny bit soft, but just at the corners.

They are tasty, but actually taste like cherry banana oatmeal, not like a dessert. Now to be fair, Chris and I tasted one piece when they were still warm. I will update this post when I try another piece at breakfast tomorrow. Since it’s really just oatmeal and nut flours with fruit I think this would make a great breakfast-on-the-go bar or a healthy snack. I put a few in the fridge and the rest I wrapped individually in cling wrap and put in the freezer.

barswrapped

Ready for the fridge and freezer. We’ll see how they hold up.

I made only one or two modifications to the original recipe. My version follows:

Makes 16 squares.

1.5 cups almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

10 dates, pitted (calls for medjool but I have no idea what kind mine were – the package just said dates)

1/2 tbsp cinnamon (also called for nutmeg but Chris and I don’t like nutmeg)

1/2 tsp almond extract (I think it always goes well with cherries)

3 small ripe bananas (orig. calls for large, which I didn’t have)

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup oat flour

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 cups frozen cherries (no sugar added)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Put almond milk and dates in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds.
  • Blend bananas, almond milk, dates, cinnamon and extract in blender (I used the nutribullet, thanks to Mom). Set aside.
  • Put remaining dry ingredients into large bowl and mix. Add liquid mixture and stir to blend. Fold in cherries.
  • Put mixture in 9×9 pan lined with parchment.
  • Bake for 40-50 minutes, until center is no longer soft (use toothpick or knife). I didn’t cook mine long enough (called fro 30 minutes, but it was still gooey in middle, so I added 10 min). Could definitely have gone for 50 min. More banana would help the flavor too.

Nutritional info (per square):

  • 207 calories
  • 60 calories from fat
  • 6.66 g fat
  • 0.81g sat fat
  • 0 cholesterol
  • 19.63 mg sodium
  • 32.79 g carbs
  • 5 g dietary fiber
  • 8.8 g sugar
  • 5.58 g protein

UPDATE: These DO NOT freeze well! They are mush when they defrost. It’s good if you’d like to make soft oatmeal squares for a group breakfast, but not for storage.

Sour Cherry Jam

I hate when I follow a recipe against my better instincts.

The recipe in question was good except for one major point – it called for pectin when you rarely need pectin for good jam. Because I have never made sour cherry jam before I followed instructions, and the jam is waaaaayyyy too thick. Ridiculous. Otherwise it tasted good, but the cherries lose their sourness and become sweeter, which I guess is the point, but I like eating them raw!

sourcherries-bathtime

Cherries taking a bath before pitting

Chica lent me her cherry chomper… the best one-trick gadget ever, and it’s cute!

chomper

Isn’t this the best? He’s so happy I almost forgot I was pitting hundreds of cherries! 😉

Anyway, here’s the recipe, which will be good next time, without pectin!

Ingredients

2 quarts sour cherries (about 6 cups cherries)

3 cups granulated sugar

Wash and pit the cherries, smash with a potato masher, mix with sugar in dutch oven and bring to a boil for at least 20 minutes, skimming pink foam occasionally. Keep cooking it another 5-10 minutes or until it thickens. Some people use the cold dish test (put a small dish in the freezer and pour a little jam on it to see if it gels, then it’s ready), but I use the spoon test. Run your finger down the back of the spoon, if the line holds in the jam it’s ready.

Pour into jars and process in usual hot water canning method for long term storage or just put them on the counter and wait for the vacuum-seal ping sounds from the lids and then keep refrigerated and use within a few months. The jam will be much darker than the cherries when done.

cherriescooking

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…

scjars

Made 3 half-pints and 3 quarter-pints

Sour Cherry Crumb Cake

Mom brought over a quart of sour cherries from Battleview Orchards today, and with it a recipe for this crumb cake. It was great that she brought a recipe because my first instinct for using fruit is always jam and I’m sure everyone’s sick of it.

sour-cherries

I like the taste of sour cherries as they are (yum!), and the bright red color is great. They are smaller than sweet cherries that you see in the stores. There were a few leftover for me nibble on after I pitted a pound of them for the recipe. I don’t have a mechanical pitter, but opposable thumbs are the best cherry-pitting  invention ever!  🙂

The cake looks great, but we’ll see how it does in the taste test tomorrow.

sourcherrycake

The recipe is from Martha Stewart Living, July 2009.

Ingredients

  • FOR THE TOPPING
    • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for dish
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dish
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • FOR THE CAKE
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/4 cup buttermilk
    • 2 1/2 cups (1 pound) fresh sour cherries, pitted, or frozen dark sweet cherries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish, and dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. Make the topping: Stir together butter, flour, sugars, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Make the cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. With a mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar in another bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Working in alternating batches, add flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Pour into prepared dish, and smooth. Dot top with cherries, and sprinkle with crumb topping.
  4. Bake until golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool before cutting.