Hands down, cherries are my favorite part of summer. I usually can’t bring myself to buy them out of season because they’re just never as good. And the second best thing to fresh cherries in season is preserved cherries for the other 11 months of the year! I had so many plans. Aside from the usual suspects like bourbon cherries, I was set to make maraschino cherries, savory preserves, syrups and more. You can imagine my disappointment when I arrived to the market and learned my plans to bring home buckets of cherries wasn’t happening this year.
Remember that incredibly cold winter we had here in the Northeast? Well, along with taking out the majority of Brooklyn’s fig trees (including the two in my landlord’s backyard), it also crippled many of the cherry trees upstate. While surprisingly prices weren’t inflated that much, quantities and quality lacked. Arriving around 10am to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, I managed to snag the last 3 pounds of sweet cherries from Wilklow Orchards, only to be informed that was to be their last weekend of cherries thanks to the harsh winter. I managed to scrimp up 8 pounds total that day but knowing the dwindling quantities and high cost, it would be my only cherry canning weekend this season. And sour cherries? I’ll have to go without.
My grand plans of new recipe exploration this year was trampled. This year became about the basics–cherries for the sake and flavor of pure cherries. Bourbon cherries were a given. I just can’t imagine my mid winter ice cream fixes without them. But aside from that I went with simple preserves. So often I try to experiment and make something special. Lavender-cherry preserves, balsamic preserves, but no this year I just wanted cherries.
The beauty of this recipe is it can be made with just about any quantity of cherries, big or small, just by following the ratio. I would advise against working with less than a cup. Otherwise, you’ll only have a jar or so to show for your hard work. But at the same time, if that’s the only quantity of cherries you can get your hands on, then go for it. Better some than none.
Simple Cherry Preserves (Makes four 4oz jars)
- 2 c pitted, chopped cherries
- 1/4 c lemon or lime juice
- 3/4 c sugar
- 2 tsp pectin powder
Heat cherries and lime juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook cherries until they start to break apart. Once soft, crush cherries with potato masher. You want to break up the fruit but still leave some whole bits in the preserves. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes to reduce liquid slightly.
In a small bowl mix together sugar and pectin. Turn cherries up to medium heat again and stir in sugar mixture until dissolved. Let cherries boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes until they reach the jellying stage. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes, skimming any foam.
Spoon cherries into sterile, hot 4oz jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. While lids, center lids and screw on bands. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.