Canning has been a great way for me to meet new people in my community and also across the country. There are so many people wanting to make the leap to a more sustainable life and canning is one of the ways to make that happen. Locally I have a friend, Mardena, who I have only known for less than a year but the synergy between us has been great. She called me this week that her sour cherries were ready to pick and did I want to share the wealth. I have been canning her produce, mostly rhubarb, and bringing her jars of the finished product. It has been great in that I can experiment, have recipes to write about, she is adventurous, and loves everything thing I bring.
Now I had seen all of the sour cherry recipes floating out there, but no one warned me about the process and how this lovely little fruit would create such a mess. I have worked with 40 pounds of peaches, beets, and strawberries up to my neck, but these little buggers were unbelievable. They are tiny so "pitting" each one would have been impractical. Each one still had the tiny stem attached and needed to be pulled. By the time I was done "de-stemming" close to 10 pounds of them, my fingers already looked like I had cut the tips as the cherry juice had stained.
|Sour Cherries and the tiny stems|
|The start of a mess!|
|Tiny little buggers|
My next decision was how to extract all the flavor I could get, get more pulp than pits, and do this without waiting till morning for them to hang in a jelly bag. I kind of McGyvered a system but it seemed to work. My fine mesh strainer, a spatula, and my enamel dutch oven.
After I cooked the cherries down so that they were soft enough I added a little at a time to the strainer and mashed the cherries through reserving the pits but working each batch to put through as much pulp as possible. I kept lifting the strainer to see if I was accomplishing something and as they say "slow and steady wins the race". What I didn't think of was the mashing was splattering the juice all over the counter, the backsplash, the top of the stove, and into the back burners. It was a mess but I knew if I cleaned it now the next scoopful I brought over to the strainer would make the mess again, so I left it for the end.
I have to say if it wasn't for my apron I would have looked like a blood splatter victim from an episode of "CSI". My apron will never be the same but I love having the "war wounds" on it so I can remember every canning session that didn't come clean.
In the end I got to the last scoop returned the liquid to the flame and made the jelly. After a good scrub with lysol wipes my only casualty was my dish towel, as I ladled the cherry jelly into with the jars(drips). It set really well and I put enough sugar in to cut the sour taste. Here is the recipe:
Put sour cherries into a stainless steel or enamel dutch oven on medium high heat. Cook stirring occasionally for 25 minutes. When the cherries begin to break down with the end of a spoon begin ladling in small batches into a fine mesh strainer and pushing through the pulp and liquid. Put the seeds and remaining pulp that didn't go through into a bowl, do not throw away. Once you have processed all the cherries through the strainer, pour the liquid back into the pot.
To get as much liquid as you can put the pits and additional pulp that you set aside in the bowl into the strainer and let it sit over the pot for about 20 minutes mixing it up ever 10 minutes. You will get additional liquid from this process as well. Discard pits and pulp in composter.
At a high heat bring the cherry juice to a simmer and add the sugar. Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved about 5 minutes. Bring the recipe back to a boil and add liquid pectin. Turn off heat.
Ladle cherry mixture in to half pint jars, wipe rims carefully, add hot lids/rings and process in a water bath for 10 minutes at a full boil. Get out the cleaning products and clean the kitchen. Check the floor and ceiling for additional cherry splatter!