Almost all fruits can be put up in simple syrup. No need to search for fancy canning recipes, just can as is with anything from a super light syrup (10%) to heavy syrup (50%) and save them for a winter cobbler or pie. I put up peaches three years ago when I started canning and honestly it was pretty awful. I hadn’t yet mastered the skill of blanching, essential for easy peel peaches. They still tasted like peaches but were soft and squishy when I opened them a few months later. I had to drain the syrup and peaches for a good hour just to remove enough moisture so they wouldn’t soak through my pie crust. It was still a summer pie in the middle of February, but I was not impressed. It was then that I swore off whole fruit canning. I’m a perfectionist, and if I couldn’t do it perfectly (the first time…) I figured jars of jam and a freezer full of berries was plenty good.
I was perfectly content with my decision until my friend and I opened up a jar of her sour cherries from last harvest. There was no need for cobbler. We put together an elaborate cheese plate to serve them with but found eating them by the spoonful out of the jar was most effective. I pleaded to take home one of her last jars and poured its fruit and syrup contents over generous bowls of vanilla ice cream. Pure magic. I knew I wouldn’t be lucky enough to keep stealing her canned cherries (did I mention she’s 4 states away?) so I’d have to suck it up and go back on my “no whole fruit” canning rule. Of course, being me, I couldn’t just use simple syrup. There had to be a twist.
There are plenty of recipes out there for bourbon peaches, bourbon apple butter, even bourbon tomato jam. So why not bourbon cherries? I scoured every canning book I had plus online sources and the general consensus is alcohol is a preservative. Often times you don’t even have to process the jars (like a few bourbon cherry recipes I came across) but the shelf life is a bit shorter and I feel a bit safer knowing they’re really sealed. So I toyed with my simple syrup recipe, adding enough bourbon to get the flavor but not completely saturate the cherries in booze. After canning the cherries, I ended up with an extra cup of cherry bourbon syrup. Not a bad situation to be in. Mixed with a bit of seltzer and it’s the perfect summer cocktail!
Bourbon Sour Cherries (Makes about 3 half-pint jars)
- 4 c sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
- 1 1/2 c sugar, divided
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped
- 3/4 c water
- 1 / 4 c bourbon
Mix cherries, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla bean with seeds in a medium bowl. Let macerate 4 hours to really extract all the juices. Discard vanilla bean. In a medium saucepan stir together cherries with juice, remaining sugar, water and bourbon. Cook over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to a slow boil and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until cherries are heated through. Ladle cherries into half-pint jars. Cherries should be packed tightly but not crammed. Cover cherries with syrup leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.
- Balsamic Cherry Preserves (bklynlocavore.com)
- Peach Bourbon Crostata (localforkful.com)
- Sour Cherries (sunnybraefarm.wordpress.com)
- Drunken Fruit (thetipsyhomemaker.wordpress.com)
- Cherries, Cherries and More Cherries (bearygoodstuff.wordpress.com)
- Elderflowers – Make Your Own St~Germain (themuddykitchen.com)
- Odessa style Chicken in Sour Cherry Sauce (sweet-n-savory.com)
- Once-a-year twice-baked cherry pie (splashofsomething.com)
What a great idea! Can you use any variety of cherries as long as they are underripe? Or are sour cherries a particular variety?
You could use any cherries really. I had bing and sour but went with the sour because I thought it would be a nice contrast with the tartness
Agreed, great idea! Where oh where did you find sour cherries? I’m dying to get my hands on some.
I’ve seen them at Union Square too but these came from Grand Army Plaza. First time working with sour cherries and loved them!
These look wonderful!! I am going to have to make them. I love boozy cherries.
It was honestly hard to get them in the jars…multiple taste tests were required 🙂
Oh it makes me long for when I lived in the northern part of Michigan and sour cherries were plentiful.
You have to hunt a bit to find them at our farmers markets, but when you do, you stock up!
I don’t think I’d have to worry about these lasting because I wouldn’t be able to stop eating them! I love cherries and cherries in syrup are even better.
I know. My trick is to hide them deep in the pantry so I forget (or at least try). I try to save things I’ve canned for at least a month or two before eating. Otherwise what’s the point?!
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