It will surprise no one to learn that I was the sort of teenager who sat around watching PBS cooking shows on the weekend. The Frugal Gourmet, especially, but also whatever else came on before and after it. One was an Italian show that I suspect must have been Ciao Italia. I particularly remember being mesmerized an episode devoted to cherries, which featured lots of description of growing up in a huge Italian family in upstate New York and preserving cherries in a million different ways during cherry season. I couldn’t imagine having enough cherries to preserve. The South is famous for peaches, but certainly not for cherries. Those grow in the north, and by the time they’re shipped a good 800 or 1300 miles southward, they’re worth a fortune. Cherry bounty was such a foreign concept that I didn’t even feel deprived.
Then we moved to Minnesota, which gets Michigan cherries shipped over. They were far more affordable, but I had neither the time nor space nor mental energy to preserve them. And now we live in, yes, Upstate. There are cherries all over the place each summer. Last summer I froze fourteen quarts of sour pie cherries. It was awesome, but also way too much. I’m still a bit burned out on sour cherries. This year I froze several bags, but I’m also diversifying. Here’s what I’ve made so far.
Potted Ranier Cherries with Rum and Vanilla Bean (From Ad Hoc at Home)
1 pound Ranier cherries with stems
1/3 cup light rum
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, split
Wash and pit the cherries, then trim the stems to 1 1/2 inches. (I just de-stemmed them.)
Pour the rum into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Carefully light the rum with a match, or by tilting the pan toward the burner if using a gas stove, to burn off the alcohol. Remove from the heat.
Add the sugar and water to the pan. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the beans and add to the pan, then add the pods. Return to the heat, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let the syrup steep for 30 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries and vanilla beans to a canning jar or other storage container. (Do not press down on the cherries.) Pour the liquid over the cherries, cover with the lid, and let cool. Then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
I’ve also made:
- Smoky Chipotle Cherries from Local Kitchen
- Sweet cherries lightly simmered with sugar to taste, then refrigerated in a two-quart springtop jar. These keep for about two weeks, and Mr. Husband uses them constantly in desserts.
- Cherries in light syrup, hot packed, from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving