The thermometer might have said 90° last Saturday, but I swear it was much hotter. Maybe not so hot as humid. Stepping outside I needed to forcefully push myself through the thick, hot air, each step forward needing complete attention and concentration. And this was at 9am. My husband lay in bed, comfortably bundled under the covers in our over air conditioned bedroom. But I was on a mission. Perhaps my last free weekend to get cherries, I wanted to make sure I had plenty to last through the winter.
When I arrived at Grand Army Plaza, the sun seemed to have gotten significantly hotter and pull closer after just a short 20 minute train ride. Grand Army is one of my favorite markets and the most convenient “big” market to my apartment, but it offers no shade other than the flimsy popup farm tents. I tried to stay under cover but it was a lost cause. I was surprised to see that in just one week the market had come alive with summer produce. Sweet corn, juicy peaches and heirloom tomatoes seemed to be everywhere. I collected a few of each but stayed true to my plan. Sweet bing and sour cherries both beckoned to me. Both equally delicious but drastically different. The heat left me with no energy to choose favorites so I did what anyone in my situation would do. I went home some of each, a little more than 4 pounds each.
Once home my weekend was spent pitting, cooking and canning. My fingers are still a bit purple around the edges from those pesky bing cherries. I look a bit like a child who played in the dirt all afternoon and refused to wash up for supper. Luckily I have no plans of meeting with anyone important this week. Those I regularly interact with are quite used to my stained or sliced fingers by now.
I started with sour cherry preserves. Tasty but ordinary. Pitted cherries, sugar, and lemon juice, cooked down until sticky and jammy. But with the sweet cherries I wanted a bit of a twist. They’re already incredibly sweet, adding the littlest bit of sugar puts them over the edge. So instead I added some acid, cutting the sweetness with the tart bite of balsamic vinegar. Not too much to my to bury the cherries, but just enough to add some bite.
As for the rest of the cherries, I became lazy and put most up in plain simple syrup, perfect for a mid winter pie craving. Oh, and then there’s the bourbon sour cherries. But that’s a recipe for another day.
Balsamic Cherry Preserves (Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
- 4 c bing cherries, pitted
- 1/4 c plus 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1/4 c lemon juice
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp powdered pectin
Mix cherries, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla seeds and bean in a medium saucepan and let macerate for at least one hour. Remove vanilla bean and discard. Stir in lemon juice and bring to a slow boil over medium heat, crushing fruit as it cooks. Add balsamic vinegar and continue cooking until liquid reduces slightly, about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl stir together remaining tablespoon of sugar and pectin. Increase cherries to a rapid boil and add pectin mix, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until completely dissolved and cherries have reached the jelly state. Remove from heat and ladle into hot, sterilized 4oz canning jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.