Old Fashioned Cherry Preserves

Update: If canning is your “thing” be sure to visit my new growing, canning, and preserving site at Seed to Pantry. I’ll be adding new canning tips and techniques on a regular basis!

We grow many varieties of cherries here in the Mid-Columbia, but not many sour cherries. So when I found fresh sour (or pie) cherries at the Farmer’s Market, I quickly purchased three pounds for my favorite preserves – sour cherry.

First a little background. Jams are made from chopped or crushed fruit which is then cooked along with the sugar until it gels. It is difficult, if not downright impossible, to pick out individual pieces of fruit from jams. My favorite jams to make are any berry jams and apricot jam.

Preserves on the other hand, are pieces of fruit that are preserved with sugar and sort of suspended in a clear, gelled syrup. I like to make preserves out of fruit that holds together, like cherries, peaches, and plums. Making preserves is usually a two day process, although the actual cooking time is no longer than that when making jam.

Start with 3 lbs. of sour pie cherries. Using a cherry pitter or a knife, remove the cherry pits. This should leave you with about 6 cups of cherries. Place the cherries in a large, deep saucepan (I used my trusty Dutch oven) and add 4 3/4 cups sugar. Cover and let sit for about an hour. This allows time for the sugar to draw out some of the cherry juice.

Heat the mixture over medium heat, gently stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a full boil, continuing to stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning. Boil for 5 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let sit for 12-16 hours.

Add 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Once again, increase the heat to medium-high and continue boiling until the syrup has thickened (this usually takes 15-20 minutes). Ladle the cherries and syrup into half-pint jars, add the 2-piece lids and rings, and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Notes: I find that this mixture produces a lot of foam while cooking. Most recipes tell you to skim off the foam and dispose of it. I guess I am too lazy to do that though. Instead, when the syrup is thickened to the correct level, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir the preserves until the foam is completely collapsed, then continue to ladle into the jars. This recipe made about 5 half-pints of preserves.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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