Rollin, rollin, rollin, keep them cherries rollin, Rawhide!
I’ve spent the week preserving cherries for all I’m worth; frozen cherries, dried cherries, cherry rhubarb pie filling, drunken cherries, cherry chutney, lemon cherry muffins and cherry vanilla preserves. I feel like a cherry-pitting machine. I’m whipping up cherry recipes so fast that I don’t have time to post them. It’s just the teeniest bit possible that 40 lbs of cherries was a wee bit ambitious. Shut up, you did not tell me so.
So, clearly I’ve been eating a lot of cherries this week. Many, many fresh delicious cherries, but also sampling all the various recipes (more posts to follow, I promise!). This one is definitely a keeper; there is very little sugar, so the pure fruit flavor bursts in your mouth; the vanilla gives it an exotic sweetness, and just a touch of glamour, but the soft set is reminiscent of Grandma’s old fashioned “put-ups,” so this preserve is equally at home on toast or PB&J as it is mounded into mini pastry shells and topped with fresh chevre and a snip of garden chives. If you’ve got sweet cherries on hand, I highly recommend you give this one a try!
Adapted from Cherry Vanilla Jam in Gourmet Preserves by Madelaine Bullwinkel
Cherry Vanilla Preserves
- 4 lbs (about 8 cups) sweet black cherries, rinsed and pitted
- 2 lbs (about 5 cups chopped) Granny Smith or Mutsu apples, peeled and cored
- 2 vanilla beans
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
- If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
- In a food processor, pulse cherries and apples to a medium-fine texture (the chunkier you would like your jam, the chunkier you should leave the fruit; it does not cook down all that much). Transfer to a large stockpot. Add lemon juice and toss with fruit to prevent browning.
- Slice through the skin of the vanilla beans, scraping out the seeds with the flat of a knife. Add seeds and pods to the stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Uncover and simmer for about 20 minutes to reduce the juices, stirring occasionally. The mixture will thicken but should not stick at this point. If it starts sticking, turn down the heat.
- Add sugar in 1/2 cup increments, allowing the jam to come to a simmer between each addition. Simmer actively, stirring frequently, for another 20 minutes, or until the jam noticeably thickens and the temperature reads 212 degrees F.
- Fill sterilized jars (I like a mix of 8-oz and 4-oz jars, for using and gift-giving) to 1/4-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, adjust headspace, wipe rim, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 8 cups.
- I cut the sugar way down in this recipe (the original recipe called for 4 and 1/2 cups sugar, which is still less than most traditional jam recipes, considering the 6 lbs of fruit). This results in a more pure cherry fruit flavor, but also in a softer set. These preserves are loose; not watery, but soft – if you turn a jar upside-down, the preserves will fall to the lid, not stay in place like a jelly or harder-set jam. (Hence, although this is technically a “jam,” not a preserve, since I did not make a jelly out of the juice first, I’m calling it “preserves” because that seems to fit better with a natural flavor and soft set). If you’d like a harder set, add more sugar and cook for a little longer (you can go up to 220 degrees F, or ‘gel’ stage), although you sacrifice some of the great cherry flavor with added sweetness and a bit of carmelization from the extra cooking.
- The recipe originally called for sour cherries (I tell you, the sweet black cherry gets no love), hence cutting back the sugar makes sense. If you have sour cherries on hand, I would up the sugar a little bit, maybe to 2 cups or 2 and 1/2 cups total.
If canned, store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. If refrigeratred, use within 3 months.
Cherry season – early summer.