Our local fruit stand had cases of beautiful bing cherries, so we couldn’t resist spending a couple of days canning. With purple fingertips, we stemmed and pitted 40 pounds of cherries and turned them into pretty jars of Cherry Pie Filling, Cherry Jam, Cherry-Boysenberry Jam, Cherry-Raspberry Jam, Cherry Vanilla Bean Syrup, and plain bottled cherries (that can be eaten as-is or spiced up for sauces). It was exhausting but worth the effort now that the jars are in neat rows on the pantry shelves. Some of the jam and syrup will make for sweet Christmas gifts in December.
I love home canning because I know every ingredient that goes into my jars (i.e., no high fructose corn syrup!). Whether you are canning, freezing, or drying cherries for food storage, you will want to invest in a “cherry stoner.” Here’s a link to a Suction Base Cherry Stoner on Amazon that’s a great price: Victorio VKP1009 Cherry Stoner, Suction Base It is a handy device that quickly pits the cherries. Although it occasionally misses a pit, it does a good job and saves oodles of time.
Once the cherries are washed, stemmed and pitted, the fun can begin. First, to can the plain cherries, we filled pint jars tightly with the fruit and made a mixture that was half water and half apple juice (which brings out the flavor of the cherries) with about 1/8 cup of honey per pint jar. We then poured the mixture into the jars, covering the cherries and leaving about 1″ headspace.
(I’m not sure how the Tupperware ended up on the burner during this process, but luckily the flame was off.)
We then pressure canned these jars for 10 mintes. We’ve decided we’ll just water-bath cherries in the future though, because the fruit holds its shape much better that way. Still, they taste great and my husband has already eaten two pints straight from the jar.
For the Cherry Pie Filling and Cherry Vanilla Bean Syrup, I used the same basic syrup recipe with minor alterations.
In a large pan, mix together:
4 1/2 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Combine and add to dry ingredients in pot:
2 tsp. salt
5 c. cherry juice
4 c. water
Stir the water mixture into the sugar mixture and bring to boil. Cook until thick and bubbly. Remove from the heat and ADD:
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
Pour the mixture over cherries in quart jars for pie filling, leaving a generous 1″ headspace (the hot syrup expands, so this is important to ensure the jars don’t overflow). Clean jar rims and attach lids and rings before processing in a water bath canner for 25 minutes.
To make the Cherry Vanilla Syrup, add two vanilla beans (that are sliced open) to the syrup as it heats. When the syrup is thick and bubbly, stir in chopped cherries to your liking. You can leave the syrup plain, but I like to add the chunks of cherry. Remove the vanilla beans and pour the syrup into hot pint jars. Clean jar rims, attach lids and rings, and process for 25 minutes in a hot water bath canner.
The Cherry Vanilla Syrup was so delicious it prompted pancakes at midnight! My dad said it “tasted like Christmas.”
For the jams, I used recipes from the low-sugar powdered pectin boxes (like Sure-Jell Premium Fruit Pectin, Light, just altering the combination of fruit to total the amount needed. If it called for 6 cups of chopped cherries, I used 3 cups cherries and 3 cups raspberries or boysenberries to total 6 cups.