Going Wild with Cherries

Raw, Washed CherriesQuick! Cherries’ peak growing season is so short, you don’t want to miss making the most of any fresh ones you can get a hold of. If you buy cherries from a typical grocery store, you are likely to find the best deals of the year during the early summer months of June and July.

cropped cherry jarsThere are so many ways to preserve cherries that instead of describing each method here, you’ll find complete recommendations on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website by clicking the blue links, below.

With about 3 pounds (2 quarts) of sour cherries, try making Cherry Jam with powdered pectin or the equally scrumptious Cherry Jam with liquid pectin.  Goes great on biscuits, thumb-print cookies, or mixed into plain yogurt.

If you have a bit more time available, then you’ll be able to prepare the juice needed for making Cherry Jelly with powdered pectin or Cherry Jelly with liquid pectin.

Pitting CherriesAnother option for sour cherries is to can Sour Cherries – Whole. And, the very same procedure and process times are used to can Sweet Cherries – Whole. You could even mix sweet and sour cherries!

For an extra sweet spread option, can Sweet Cherry Topping, made with Bing cherries, water, sugar, and liquid pectin.

Cherry Syrup is another way to make and can a sweet topping, this one more pourable/liquid-like and less spreadable/solid-like than the Sweet Cherry Topping, above. You may use any type of cherry for the syrup.

Boiling Cherries into SyrupLowering Jars into Canner

In case canning is not your preferred preservation method, you could freeze your Sour Cherries or Sweet Cherries. The difference between the two is due to balancing the flavor of sour cherries with slightly more sugar. Sour cherries can be packed in 50% sugar syrup or a sugar pack, whereas sweet cherries are packed in 40% sugar syrup or a dry pack, no sugar added.

Last but not least, Dried Cherries make a great snack, either plain or as an ingredient in fancy trail mix with nuts and chocolate pieces. Drying cherries takes just a few steps – start with ripened cherries and stem, wash, drain, and pit them, leaving whole, halving or chopping as you please. Whole cherries need to be dipped in boiling water until skins split to help moisture escape while they dry. For sour cherries, you will syrup blanch them for 10 minutes. Make sure you have 24-36 hours available to check on the cherries as the complete the drying process in a dehydrator.