Sour cherries are one of those ephemeral gifts of nature: if everything goes right, and it’s not too hot, or too cold, and it rains just enough, but not too much, and it doesn’t hail, cherry growers (and eaters) are rewarded with about two weeks of sweet-tart perfection. Because they are so precious, I had never tried to preserve them before this year—I have yet to arrive at the U-Pick the appropriate week, and they’re quite expensive at my local farmer’s market in Clark Park. Last year, though, Marisa over at Food in Jars gave me a rather extraordinary jar of her sour cherry preserves. I wanted some of my own, and, by God, I was going to have some.
But then I went on vacation and missed the harvest at Mood’s. Yet again.
Oh well, I thought. Isn’t eating locally all about learning that food is all about timing?
But to my surprise, some of our market’s Pennsylvania farmers showed up with a few boxes of sour cherries. I bought three pints for $3 each and dived in. I ended up with 4 pints of absolutely divine sour cherry preserves, then promptly opened one jar back up to serve to friends. And next year, I’ll pick my own and can all I want. Really.
Sour Cherry Preserves
3 pints sour cherries, pitted
2 1/2 c. sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 T real vanilla (or use a bean)
1 cinnamon stick
1) Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. This is never going to gel, but bring it close to the gelling point. I used a candy thermometer and cooked it to 214°F (at sea level). Fish out the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean, if you’re using them, and turn off the heat.
2) Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare 4 half-pint jars. Prepare your lids. Transfer the hot preserves to the hot jars and adjust the two-piece lids. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.