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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Sweet Cherry Preserves

As gorgeous as I think that strawberry jam is, I sure have gotten sick of looking at it! Wow, has this year been a whopper. Major changes, but all for the good. We have purchased a farm and I am finally getting back to my agrarian roots. Besides all the physical labor of getting the farm how we want it, I have been spending an enormous amount of time brainstorming and researching what I want our farm to be and what I want to produce. I feel like I'm really getting close to a plan. Yay! But all of this has kept me very, very busy. 

One of the things we did this year was put in an orchard. I chose a wide variety of trees and sweet cherries definitely made the cut! When I saw the most beautiful Bings I've ever seen on ridiculous sale earlier this summer, I went a bit crazy and justified it as business research saying, "I'm going to have to come up with recipes for putting them up for when my trees start producing." Sadly, then, as the summer went on, it was becoming clear that there was something up with the cherry industry this year. I think they are suffering from the ramifications of the tariff fiasco and have been having to dump huge amounts of cherries into the domestic market. I feel badly for them! But I will also do my part to "help" them out by buying way more than my share! When I saw sweet cherries on sale for 99 cents a pound last week, I knew I had to put up more of this amazing preserve recipe I developed this year. It's very simple and very, very tasty. I will be gifting quite a bit of it at the holidays this year!

Is that not just gorgeous!?! And the flavor and texture are divine. I originally thought it'd be great on ice cream or used in lemonade, etc., but it turns out I've mostly just been eating it straight out of the jar. 

As far as canning goes, this recipe is pretty simple. the most time consuming part is pitting the things. You can do it without any special tools or go whole hog and get a fancy contraption. I'm somewhere in between. I have this hand held pitter that came from Pampered Chef and I like it quite a bit. I can pit six to eight pounds in less than 30 minutes. 

Now days, when I develop a new canning recipe that requires pectin, I stick with Pomona's because it means that in the future I can scale the recipe to any amount of fruit I want. I've posted a couple of Pomona's recipes previously and if you aren't familiar with the stuff, I'd check out those posts, too. You don't use it quite the same way as regular pectin. My standard recipe uses eight cups of pitted cherry halves, but as long as you scale the recipe, you can make it with any amount of fruit that you have on hand. 

After you pit and halve the cherries, add the first batch of sugar and macerate the cherries overnight in the fridge. This helps to keep the fruit from floating in the jar, only an aesthetic issue, but one that irks me nonetheless. It also helps to bring out the cherry's delicious juice, helping to make a wonderful syrup for the cherries to swim in. 

When you are ready to can, be sure to have your water bath canner and jars ready. If you are new to canning, check out my Canning 101 post for more details on the process. Follow the Pomona's pectin process for when to add the different batches of sugar and it will come out perfectly! The only other detail I'll mention in detail is the optional citric acid ingredient in the recipe. Sometimes, cherries can be so sweet that when canned with sugar, they become cloying. The first two batches I made were naturally well balanced fruit and I only used the lemon juice. The last batch was made with almost overripe cherries and they needed some citric acid to balance the sweet. You can start with a 1/4 teaspoon and taste to decide how much they need. You can add the citric acid at any point in the process, so feel free to continue tasting to be sure they turn out just right. Go help those cherry growers and be prepared to be wowed!

Sweet Cherry Preserves
Yield: 8-9 cups

8 cups pitted and halved dark sweet cherries
1 cup sugar

Mix the fruit and sugar together and let macerate overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp Pomona's pectin

Mix the sugar and pectin together thoroughly and set aside.

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp citric acid (optional and to taste as needed for extra sweet cherries)
1/4 tsp canola oil (or butter, to prevent foaming)
2 tsp calcium water (provided with the Pomona's pectin)

In a large pan, add the macerated cherries, lemon juice, citric acid, if needed, canola oil, and calcium water. Heat over medium high heat until the mixture is at a roiling boil. Add the sugar/pectin mixture and stir thoroughly until the mixture returns to a hard boil. Boil, stirring continually, for one minute. Pour into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes for half-pints and 15 minutes for pints.

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