Cherry. Wikipedia will tell you the dry facts, but it won’t tell you how you get that burst of sweet, dark fruitiness when you bite into them, or how well they go in desserts, jams, or pies, or how you almost start to salivate at the mere word.
There is one downside. They are intensely seasonal, and you can only get them fresh, ripe, and cheap in a very narrow period in the summer. So I was delighted when our local grocery store had them on sale at $2.99 a pound!
What to do with your cherries?
Candied cherries (also known as glacé cherries) are used in cakes and puddings. They are only on the shelves in my grocery store for a ridiculously short time – about one month. So here’s how you make them yourself.
1 pound fresh cherries, rinsed, stemmed and pitted
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 fresh lemon
1 cup apple juice
In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add the cherries and the lemon. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the syrup is red and slightly thick, about 20 minutes.
Cover and let stand 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
Strain the cherries, reserving the syrup, and set them aside.
Discard the lemon and add the apple juice to the reserved syrup.
Bring the syrup to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cherries to the syrup, reduce the heat and cook slowly until the syrup is thick, about 220°F (105°C) on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and cool. The cherries can be stored in a tightly covered container for at least six months in the refrigerator.
(source for candied cherries recipe)
CHERRY PIE FILLING
Yield: 7 quarts
6 qts fresh or thawed sour cherries
7 cups Granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups Clear Jel®
9 1/3 cups Cold water
1/2 cup Bottled lemon juice
1 tsp Cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp Almond extract (optional)
1/4 tsp Red food colouring (optional)
Quality: Select fresh, very ripe, and firm cherries. Unsweetened frozen cherries may be used. If sugar has been added, rinse it off while the fruit is still frozen.
Rinse and pit fresh cherries, and hold in cold water.
Combine sugar and Clear Jel® in a large saucepan and add water. If desired, add cinnamon, almond extract, and food coloring. Stir mixture and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Fold in drained cherries and immediately fill hot jars with Cherry Pie mixture leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.
Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process quart or pint jars for 30 minutes in a hot water bath canner (time given for under 1000 feet, please check source PDF if you live higher than 1000ft).
(Source: National Centers for Food Preservation USDA E-Book chapter 2, canning fruit and fruit products)
Note on Clear Jel: it is specifically approved by the USDA for making pie fillings. Other starch sources are not approved for this purpose. If you can’t get Clear Jel from an online store, you can use other thickeners but you’ll need to freeze the filling rather than canning it. Sorry.
Once you have your own canned cherry pie filling, you can experiment with adding cocoa powder to make a cherry chocolate pie!