Years ago, my husband’s great-aunt gave us quarts of canned sour cherries. I always appreciated making pies from them. However, years later, I have come to appreciate her efforts even more.
Last year, when my 2 sour cherry trees were ready for picking, we had a heat wave. Before picking most of the cherries, they went wormy and I lost more than half of the crop. This year, so far, I’ve been more fortunate. Within a week the cherries had turned from unripe to ripe, so I have been busy picking. Over the past 2 days, one tree has yielded 6 gallons of cherries, with at least 3 more gallons still ripening. The other tree is not fully ripened.
Pitting is my next project, which will take more than an hour per gallon. Once the cherry pits are removed, I can simply freeze some of the cherries for later pie making, or go through the more laborious process of making some cherry preserves.
I’m planning on following a cherry preserve recipe from the Ball Blue Book with a process that can be extended over 2 days. It involves 2 pounds of pitted sour cherries and 4 cups of sugar for a yield of approximately 4 pint-sized jars. The sugar is mixed with the cherry juice and then cooked until the sugar dissolves. It’s cooled, before adding the cherries, which are cooked rapidly for 15 minutes. That mixture is covered and allowed to stand in a cool place for 12-18 hours. At that later time, it’s brought to a boil and cooked for a minute, before being poured boiling hot into hot jelly jars. The tightly lidded jars are simmered for 10-15 minutes in a water-bath canner for completion of the process. Imagine how that will taste on a bagel or freshly baked biscuit!
Last Fall when I wanted to make some jelly from my highbush cranberries, I had to shop around for pint-sized jars. I was motivated to buy a case during Menard’s Anchor pint jar sale this week. I wasn’t alone, because a woman mentioned she was buying some as well because she had been making strawberry-rhubarb and plum jams. It would appear that jam and jelly canning is very much alive.