Oh, cherry season, how I love thee. And while everyone I know is indulging in the bounty of sour cherries that we have in Edmonton at the moment, I found myself surround by Bing and Ranier cherries from my travels to British Columbia. Not being one to ignore a single orchard, I loaded up on 10 lbs of peaches and 5 lbs of cherries on the way home.
The peaches are almost gone. We eat them two at a time, sliced in a bowl and that includes the kids. There is nothing like a week long feast of fresh peaches that were picked that very morning from the trees mere yards away from where you purchased them. Oh man. I am looking forward to next year already.
I digress. Cherries do not get eaten as fast as peaches, mainly because we buy cherries more often. In fact the store peaches disappoint us so greatly after having fresh from the tree peaches that it's pointless to even buy them.
I couldn't resist loading up on orchard fresh sweet cherries and making a sweet cherry preserve out of them. Now, there are lots of cherry jams, lots of cherry preserves and lots of boozy cherries recipes out there, but I couldn't find one that was a boozy sweet cherry preserve.
Preserves are my favorite way to put up fruit, bar none. They are meant to have large chunks of fruit floating around in a slightly jammy base, rather than smashed fruit being the main contents. That said, it may be my favorite way to put up fruit, but I am definitely a novice in the preserves area!
Since my children aren't that fond of “chunks” in their jam, I had the liberty to make these preserves whatever I wanted. I saw that liquor is a very popular preservative for whole cherries- Drunken Cherries- and thought why not add it to preserves?
Amaretto is a delicious almond flavor liqueur that makes these preserves amazing.
I mean seriously AMAZING. These ain't your grandma's preserves.
Or maybe you had a really awesome Grandma and these ARE her preserves! If so, can I adopt her?
Of course you can substitute almond extract to your liking, but hoo boy, would I use the Amaretto instead!
These are a lovely delight to tuck away for adults only!
Ingredients Needed for Cherry Preserves
4 cups of washed, pitted and chopped sweet Bing or Rainier cherries
2 cups of whole pitted sweet cherries
3 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
2 tsp Amaretto or add almond extract to your liking
First, get the whole family pitting those cherries. By using the Rainier ones I had left as well, the kids were able to partake without staining everything in sight. We went out and bought special bendy straws for the occasion, not only because these ones are incredibly rigid and thus perfect for popping out the pits, but the kids are thrilled to now have cooler straws then they did before.
You simply remove the stem, push the straw through the top in the center where the stem was and out pops the pit.
We left the actual cooking until the next day and then tackled the job of chopping the cherries. Yes, again, my kids are in their pajamas with bedhead and all. It's how we roll around here.
I roughly chopped 4 cups of cherries and then added in two cups of whole ones. Combine them all with the lemon juice and rind.
Over medium heat, cook for about 25-30 minutes, the large cherries will take a while to cook up. Remember to stir and keep your eye on them.
The cherries will get all wonderfully soft and if you prefer you can now flatten the large cherries a little bit. Some people like them whole and round in preserves and others like it slightly more like a jam. Choose your poison.
Now it's time to add in your sugar.
Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the spoon test shows you that the liquid is gelling.
I managed to get a picture to show everyone what it should look like dripping off the spoon.
The back of the spoon should be coated and instead of dripping in two or three drops, all the liquid will come to the center in one hanging wide droplet. If you test early on, you can see the progression of the liquid drops to this point.
You can also spoon a little bit onto a plate and place it in the freezer for a while. Then test it out by pushing it with your finger, if it wrinkles up, it's gelled perfectly.
If either test shows it's not ready, simply cook another 5 minutes and test. Keep on doing it until it reaches that gel stage.
Once that point is reached you can cool it a bit and then jar them in sterilized jars. I took one jar out for the kids and then added 2 tsp of Amaretto in to the rest. I think you could even go further with the Amaretto taste, if you wanted to do something such as serve the preserves over vanilla ice cream for an adult dessert. I would ramp up the taste just that much more so you know it's in there on purpose. Play with it and see what works, but sometimes you do really want an alcohol taste, others you don't.
This make exactly 5 small containers of 125 ml each, making that 2.5 cups of preserves. It's not a large recipe by any means and I am not sure how doubling it would work at all. Jams get so finicky when it comes to changing the amounts.
I was very happy to see that without using commercial pectin that the cherries worked out – they can be so low in natural pectin- and these are the perfect consistency.
I think these would be a lovely little food to give away at Christmas and if you want to do this, you need to can them in a hot water bath. These processed as they are will last a month or two in the refrigerator, but no more.
If you want to can them it's fairly simple, especially with smaller jars. Make sure you sterilize the jars, fill them, seal them up and then boil them in the canning pot for 15 minutes. Remove them to cool on the counter and you will hear all those lovely “ting!” sounds as the lids are vacuum sealed in properly Those will store for years, if they even lasted that long!
After jars have cooled, you may press on the lid to check the seal. The seal should be sucked down and not pop up and down when you press on it. Those you can eat right away or attempt to re-seal.
I am tempted to take cherries, freeze them whole/pitted and then make these closer to Christmas. I am curious how brandy might go with these as well…fruit laced with alcohol just seems so perfect for wintertime desserts!
If anyone out there is using sour cherries and wants to give these a try, let me know how it works. I can't help that think the Amaretto is even better with those pungently flavored beauties. Alas I don't have any sour cherries – a tree is on my list for the new house- otherwise I would be trying this on them as well!
I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend, get out there and enjoy time with the kids, can you believe that school is almost in? This is the time of year when I really start thinking about homeschooling again..the weather is nice, the kids are so happy..and then I realize that the lovely 6 months of winter we get here in Edmonton is going to be here soon. And then the thought of being stuck inside with the kids isn't such a happy one.
The Slightly Woozy From the Boozy Kitchen Magpie1