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!

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Crisp x 2: Apricot and Sour Cherry

We had some extra sour cherries sitting around and they don’t last long, so Chris and I made crisp. When in doubt, make crisp!

We made too much crisp topping so I sliced up some ripe apricots and made an apricot one too.

apricot

Apricot… we used too much cinnamon, I cut it in the recipe listed below.

cherry

Cherry. Note the extra juice in the bottom. Had I used a little corn starch that would have helped.

I used my large handled soup bowls (from Williams Sonoma – they are 5″ wide and 17 oz capacity). Each makes a crisp that serves 2, so this recipe really makes enough to serve 4 people.

Crisp topping:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Fruit filling:

  • 2 cups sour cherries, washed and pitted (2 cups before pitting)
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch (optional, for cherries)
  • Almond extract (for cherries)
  • Vanilla extract (for apricots)
  • 3 apricots, washed and sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix topping ingredients (excluding cinnamon) in bowl by hand making large chunks like crumb cake topping. Set aside.
  3. Optional: toss cherries with corn starch if you don’t want extra  juice in the bottom of the crisp bowl. I don’t mind it.
  4. Put cherries in one oven safe bowl and sprinkle with a few drops of almond extract (1/8 tsp).
  5. Put apricots in another oven safe bowl and sprinkle with a few drops of vanilla extract (1/8 tsp).
  6. Sprinkle half of topping over each bowl, try to keep larger chunks of topping like crumb cake.
  7. Sprinkle top of each with a little cinnamon.
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The cherry took 35 minutes, the apricot 40 minutes.