29 June 2014

Canning Cherries is a Cinch!

I adore cherries. They are sometimes called "nature's candy" (the sweet ones anyway), and they are scrumptious. But there's only a short window (about this time every year) that fresh cherries are available at a reasonable price. You might even be able to get them for a great price. My local store was having a four day sale, and sweet cherries that are regularly $6.99 per pound were going for $2.99 per pound. That's probably very close to the best price I'll see during the window, then it will be gone until next year.

I grabbed up six pounds of sweet cherries, and started the preservation process this morning. I plan to eat some straight from the bag (highly recommended), use some in a brownie recipe, make some freezer jam, dehydrate some, and can some. Today was canning day.

After washing the cherries and removing the stems, I set to pitting. This is the only part I don't like, but it's not difficult. If you have a cherry pitter, it's a breeze. But I don't have one. Still, as I said, it's not that difficult without one. I just use a small star cake decorating tip. You know the kind that go in icing bags? Just place the end of the cherry where the stem was over the top of the tip and press down. The cherry will separate and the pit will be pushed through.

It only took me about 45 minutes to pit all six pounds of cherries. And since I only do this once a year, I'm sure to be slow!

Incidentally, since a cherry pitter is something I probably wouldn't buy myself, and since Christmas is only six months away, if any family member out there is looking for an idea for something I might want to open in December...take a look at this.

Now on to the actual canning bit! Cherries can be preserved with the waterbath canning process. The absolute easiest way is to pack as many into a jar as will fit with a 1/2 inch headspace. Then pour boiling water over the cherries, also minding the headspace. Apply lid and ring, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

If you want to add a sweetener, feel free. I pack my cherries in a light syrup. My goal is to have them as close to fresh as possible, since I don't always know what I'm going to be doing with them in the future. I just use a water / sugar ratio of 4 to 1. Today, for example, I combined 8 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar. Brought it to a boil, and poured it over my jarred cherries. And since I love the combination of cherry and vanilla, I added a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to each of the jars.

Nothing could be simpler!  Six pounds of cherries with the 8 cup water / 2 cup sugar simple syrup gave me 8 pints of canned cherries.

There are other slight variations that can be made, as well. You can actually can cherries without pitting them. I've never done this, but I read you just need to poke the cherries with a pin so they won't burst. Also, if your are wanting softer cherries, cook them in the simple syrup of your choice for five minutes. Then ladle cherries and syrup into your canning jars for process.

Shared at Nifty Thrifty Sunday and some of these other fine hops.

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