Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crime Scene Cherries

I missed out on the early cherry season this year, but managed to get my paws on about 6 lbs a few weeks ago. As I finished pitting the cherries Hubby walked in from work and asked me how many bodies had I dismembered and, where had I hidden them. It was true. Not only was I splattered head to toe with dark red stains, but so were the walls, my 1940's formica top table, the floor, and inexplicably, my daughter, Joss. I think she may have been playing under the table at some point. It was reminiscent of crime scene photos from some gang's bloodbath. *shudders*
I deposited my 10 cups of cherries into my cast iron dutch oven followed by 5 cups of sugar. As I was giving a gentle stir, the phrase "visions of sugar plums" kept dancing through my head. Except, they weren't sugar plums, silly me, but sugared cherries. And, oh, so pretty!

I covered the dutch oven and did the refrigerator rearranger dance. Once I'd successfully managed to find a place for the cherries to chill overnight, I did the same.
The next day during my allotted canning time, the natives' nap time, I brought the macerated cherries to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. After giving my arms a good workout on the stirring, I brought my plate out of the freezer to see if the cherries would pass the gel test.
Here's how the gel test works. Spoon some onto the plate and push your finger through the middle of it. If it wrinkles then it's at a good gel stage. If you're using a candy thermometer this is around 220 to 222 degrees F. Don't worry if your hasn't reached the gel stage yet. Pop another plate into the freezer and try again in two minutes.

After the gel stage has been reached, ladle those plump preserves into sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace and, make sure to wipe those rims nice and clean after removing the air bubbles.
I found several recipes with processing times ranging from 10 to 30 minutes. To be on the safe side, until I could verify which was the proper processing time, I went with the half hour. I've gotta tell you, it's been hotter than the surface of the sun here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area this past month. That half hour felt like an E.T.E.R.N.I.T.Y.

I canned three pints, one half pint, and two quarter pints. I like to do varying sizes in the case I'm the only one eating the cherries, or in the case I want to marinate chicken or pork. Other uses include, but certainly aren't limited to topping ice cream and chocolate cakes, garnishing cocktails, or eating straight from the jar. All are perfectly acceptable in my book.
So, get hopping and get your hands on some cherries ASAP. Sure, your better half might confuse your kitchen for a crime scene after pitting a few pounds of cherries, but you know it's worth it. And, they'll agree with you after having a taste. If they don't then you don't have to share.

1. Pit endless cherries, roughly 10 cups
2. Place in large pot and cover with 5 cups of sugar, stir in gently.
3. Cover and refrigerate overnight
4. Prepare canner, jars, and lids
5. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently till gel stage is reached.
6. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles using a chopstick or your handy dandy Ball tool. Wipe rims clean with wet paper towel. Center lids. Screw on bands till resistance is met. Then, a scosh more.
7. Process for 30 minutes, or until I edit this post with a verified less time. Remove lid for 5 min. Remove jars and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.
8. Dance around the kitchen with jubilee, you know, cherries jubilee. What? Too corny? Probably. But, that's how I roll.


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