Yesterday I finished preserving the 20 lbs of cherries Michael and I picked last weekend. We immediately loaded the dehydrator from top to bottom which yielded 6 cups of dried cherries. I'm not sure how much fresh weight we put in, we just loaded all 9 screens full of pitted cherries. Dehydrating cherries is easy: wash, pit, place on screen. Dehydrate at 135F for approximately 8 hours.
I then proceeded to pit the rest of the cherries in preparation for preserving. Since I'm not doing anything this year that requires pretty whole pitted cherries, I opted for speed and just tore the cherries open far enough to pop the seed out. Unless you wear gloves (and I don't) you might as well be resigned to the fact that your hands and nails are gonna stain and look gnarly for a day or two. I ended up with two gallon jars of pitted cherries.
Black Forest Preserves comes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I'd never made it before but how can anyone say no to cherries and chocolate? There was a moment though when I thought this was a doomed recipe.
Black Forest Preserves
6 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped pitted sweet black cherries
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 pouches (each 3 oz) liquid pectin
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or 4 tablespoons Amaretto
Set up your canner, utensils, jars and lids and bring the water to a boil.
Combine the sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl and set aside. I was a cup short of evaporated cane juice sugar and ended up finishing out the measurement with sucanet. Sucanet is "whole" sugar that hasn't had the molasses removed. It looks like brown medium grain sugar but not like typical brown sugar at all. It's not fine or moist. Those brown dots in the photo are sucanet.
In a large non-reactive pot, combine the cherries and lemon juice.
Stir in the cocoa/sugar mixture. This is where I thought I had gone wrong. There was so much dry to wet that I was sure the next step would lead to a scorched sugar mess. But it didn't.
Stir constantly over high heat until the sugar and cherries come to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down.
Once you're at the boil stir in both packets of pectin. Tip: Cut the top off both pouches and stand them upright in a glass or a mug so they are ready to go when you need them. Continue to boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract or Amaretto.
Let the jam stand for a few minutes while the foam rises to the top and the cherries settle. Skim off the foam.
Ladle into jars leaving 1/4" of head space. Run a spatula around the sides to release any bubbles and readjust head space if necessary. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes at sea level (remember that's 12 minutes for all you Floydians). Don't begin timing until the water bath has returned to a full boil.
Cherry Vanilla Pie Filling. It's for more than pie. It's for cobbler, turnovers, filled braided breads, cheesecake, ice cream, and more! The original recipe comes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation but I tweaked the vanilla into being more of a player. This recipe's quantity is for 1 quart but it can be easily multiplied to make several quarts at once.
3 1/3 cup fresh cherries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon Clear-Jel
1 1/3 cup cold water
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon bottled lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 split vanilla bean
6 drops red food coloring (optional)
Blanch the cherries in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain well and keep warm in a covered bowl.
Combine sugar and Clear-Jel in a large non-reactive pot. Whisk together well. Clear-Jel is a modified cornstarch that works much better than regular cornstarch for canning. Be sure to mix it in well with the sugar before adding any liquid because this will help keep it from forming lumps. It will form lumps but they will be much smaller and dissolve easier during the course of the cooking. Add water, almond extract (optional, but I think it really accents the cherry, brings it forward), vanilla extract, and food coloring (also optional, but I added some this year because last year's filling looked pale. It's totally an aesthetic thing. I used Wilton's no-taste red gel coloring.). I stir this as thoroughly as possible before putting on the stove to cook. It will begin to thicken immediately, even before it hits the heat.
Fold in drained cherries immediately...
...and fill the jar(s) with mixture without delay, leaving 1 inch head space. Include a piece of the vanilla pod in each jar.
Wipe the rim, apply lids and rings, and process in the boiling water bath for 30 minutes at sea level (35 minutes here in Floyd because of the thickness of the gel) for both pints and quarts. Allow to cool, remove rings, check seal, wash, label, date, store. You know the drill. I did a gallon of pitted cherries that yielded 3 quarts, 1 pint, and enough leftover to top some goat cheese for dessert tonight. I probably would have had 4 full quarts but I'm a more fruit/less gel kind of girl and tend to pack my fruit tighter.
Smokey Chipotle Cherries. This is a new one for me. I couldn't resist because the thought of the flavor of cherries warmed by Chipotle peppers just made me salivate! It was also really easy. This recipe calls for a specific poundage of cherries but it's a "cold pack" recipe. What's important is the syrup. It was perfect as the last recipe for the rest of the cherries I had since I just tightly packed as many jars as I wanted with fresh pitted cherries. I did 6 half pints. I packed them in Ball's fancy Elite jars because I have a feeling these are going to make nice gifts.
3 lbs cherries (or use what you have)
2 dried chipotle peppers, rinsed
2 cups sugar (I used the sucanet here because I thought the molasses in it might accent the dark and smokey flavor)
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
Combine the sugar, water, peppers and liquid smoke in a sauce pot. Stir and bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to steep for one hour.
Remove the peppers from the syrup and cut into rings, discarding seeds.
Pack the fresh cherries tightly into half pint jars along with a pepper ring, leaving a generous 1/2" head space.
Warm the syrup and pour over cherries through a sieve to catch any seeds or pepper bits, leaving 1/2" head space. Press down on cherries to release bubbles and adjust syrup if necessary. Wipe rims, adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes at sea level. That's how long Floyd? Yep that's right, 27 minutes here. Cool, remove rings, etc., etc.
I can't wait to try these. But I know they need to age a few months at least to reach their full potential. Last year's Cherries in Port have just now come into their own. So I guess I'll have those to munch while these are aging!