Frozen cherries, dehydrated cherries, cherry pies, cherry jam…I’m sounding a little like Forrest Gump, but only because we had so many fresh cherries off my parents tree we didn’t know what to do with them except, make pies, jam, freeze and dehydrate!
My parents begged us to pick as many cherries as possible while they were (conveniently, as it turns out) out of town this past week. Without hesitation, without even an inkling of an impending catch, I said yes and then it was off to do some cherry picking. My first rule of fresh fruit picking is to take regular samples to make sure the product is up to standard, but seeing as how these are SOUR cherries, beyond confirming the sourness, I wasn’t about to keep on putting myself through any more tasting then necessary. But free, fresh fruit is free, fresh fruit, so we all pitched in picked a gigantic bowl full. A bowl full of fresh cherries is sort of a wintertime dream come true, but processing these little gems was closer to a nightmare. I spend the next couple days pitting cherries. The good news was that my mom loaned me a cherry pitter, the bad news was that these sour balls of fun were slightly too small for the pitter to pop out the seed like I am used to with normal sized cherries. That means running them through the pitter once to loosen the pit, then going back through and picking out the pits by hand. Thousands of times. Did I mention we picked a lot of cherries?
Homemade cherry jam made at nap time!
Generally, with strict tasting requirements in place, there wouldn’t be many cherries left to make into other things, but Addison was the only person who could eat them and keep a straight face. When life gives you a pile of sour cherries, add sugar should be a saying, because that’s exactly what we did! The jam recipe we used called for equal volumes of sugar and cherries, which seemed completely outrageous when measuring out the sugar, but I will say this jam turned out just the way we wanted! It’s definitely not low calorie or low sugar, but the jam turned out awesome. Jam making is an intense process (careful measuring, lava-like liquid splattering, time constraints etc.), but we managed to make 12 jars in just under 2 hours. Just as a warning, if you have never made jam, do not try making jam with little kids running around, that could end in a disaster a number of different ways.
As for the dehydrated cherries, I knew they had to be sweetened somehow, so some internet searching let me to a kind blogger who shared her experience with trying to re-create the Trader Joes cherry snacks. Following her recipe, I boiled them in sugar water for 20 minutes, drained, then dehydrated for about 5 hours (time and temp will vary for different dehydrators). Very tasty, although the bowl of cherries I started with ended up fitting in a small container.
My little helper sealing the frozen cherries
Now that I don’t have any more cherries to pit, I will say it was a productive week of preserving, and nice to get some winter supplies into the pantry this early in the summer. Hopefully, next year the cherries won’t be quite so bountiful.