I was visiting my best friend the other day and, as we sat in her garden sipping iced tea, I discovered her cherry tree was bursting with ripe cherries! She complained about the purple pigeon poop that was now decorating the hood of her BMW on a daily basis. So I came up with plan that would rid us both of our problems: her dirty car and my lack of cherries… 😂

Out came the tall ladder and the clippers, and up I went, dress and all.  Several large grocery bags full of cherries later, I was ready for another iced tea. Then, excited to get my cherries home, I bid her adieu with promises of homemade jam for her and her family.

cherry picking

What followed was a cleaning, pitting, and jam making marathon that lasted two days. It turned out I had harvested well over 7 kilos of cherries! But it was so worth the effort. There’s really no flavor of jam that I don’t like, but cherry was never my favorite. IT IS NOW!

I really try to avoid eating too much sugar. Not because it’s currently been labeled as evil, but because I’m quite sensitive to it and I get crazy addicted to it really fast. So if I’m going to eat something sugary, it has to be homemade and good enough to be worth the calories!

If you can find Chinese rock sugar at your local Asian grocery, it’s well worth buying. It’s more natural tasting and far less cloyingly sweet than more processed sugar. I’ve been using it in all of my jams for the past year and everyone has noticed the difference immediately. Because of the crisis, I was running low, so I mixed it with raw cane sugar this time.

There’s really no need to use pectin or special jam making sugar.  Most fruit has enough pectin on its own, especially if all or some of it isn’t completely ripe yet. And if it doesn’t, just add some lemon juice. Trust me – it will taste so much better!

I’ve reduced the amount of cherries in this recipe. It’s the pitting that gets to you. 1.5 kilos in one go is about the limit of my patience!

With these uncertain times, it can’t hurt to have a few jars tucked away for a rainy day. I didn’t can this batch, but it’s easy – just submerge the jars in a large pot of water and boil for about 10 minutes. If you want really specific directions, here are some great instructions. It’s really super easy. Otherwise, just keep them in the fridge and they’ll be fine for several months (they just take up a lot of space).

You can do this with any summer fruit – berries and stone fruits work best. Just use half the weight of sugar to fruit and add lemon juice. If you want to get fancy, add some flavorings and/or a splash of liqueur at the end for an extra layer of flavor.

cherry preserves with yogurt

My favorite way to eat my homemade preserves is to mix some into plain yogurt. Try it – you will like it!

If you’re going to eat something sugary, then make sure it’s homemade and delicious enough to be worth the calories!

Cherry Preserves

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo bing cherries

  • 500 grams Chinese rock sugar/fine raw can sugar (or a combination of both)

  • Freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (plus more if desired)

  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/4-1/2 cup best quality honey

  • 1-2 teaspoons kirsch or another liqueur (I used wild strawberry liqueur)

 

Preparation

  1. Remove the stems and wash your cherries. If you’ve picked them fresh, put them in a sink and fill with water. The ones that are not good will float to the top and you can easily pick them out!  Now remove the pits. If you have store bought cherries, then it’s easiest to use a cherry pitter. If you have small cherries from your friend’s tree, as I did, I found the fastest way to pit them was to push the flat end of a chopstick through the cherry. I think this should also work for larger cherries if you don’t have a cherry pitter.
  2. Put the cherries in a large non-reactive pot and add a bit of water to just cover the bottom (about 3 tablespoons). Cover the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are wilted and cooked through, about 10 minutes.  NOTE: For stirring, use either a silicone or wooden spoon that you only use for sweet things – unless you want your jam tasting like garlic!
  3. In the meantime, put a small plate or saucer in the freezer.
  4. Remove the lid and stir in the sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently and skimming off any foam, until the mixture thickens. This always seems to take a different amount of time, depending on your cherries and also the size of the pot you use. Look for a change in the color – it will look darker and glossier – and it should leave  a clear thick-ish layer on your spoon that you can run your finger through.
  5. Now it’s time to test if it’s really ready.  Turn off the heat and take your plate out of the freezer.  Put a small spoonful on the frozen dish, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes to cool the jam. Then, if you nudge it and it wrinkles, it’s done.  If not, put the plate back in the freezer and cook a bit longer before testing again.
  6. When the jam is ready, stir in your liqueur and turn off the heat.
  7. Allow it to cool for a while, then stir in the honey.
  8. Ladle the preserves into clean jars and cover.  Cool to room temperature, then put the jars in the refrigerator where they will keep for several months.

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