Canning season is still in full swing, and today was a day of canned cherry recipes galore! We’ve been foraging in the forest and within our town (urban foraging) and every couple of days have been dedicated to a new fruit. Two days ago was apricot day where we canned eight gallons of apricots, and today was all about the cherries!
In total, we had about 4.5 gallons of cherries to use up. How did we receive these for free, you might ask?
That’s a great question! One of the things we’ve acknowledged is that there are many fruit trees within the city limits that nobody is harvesting and therefor, is going to waste. We drive around town and look for these types of trees, knock on the door of the home or business, and ask if we can pick the fruit!
This isn’t a 100% success rate… sometimes people ARE actually planning to pick the fruit, and I’m sure there are folks out there that won’t pick the fruit but don’t want anyone else to have it either, but for the most part, this seems to be a great strategy.
For this cherry tree in particular, we simply spotted a tree with cherries on it and gave a knock on the door. The man was more than happy for us to harvest his entire tree… my guess is that he is a busy guy and simply wasn’t going to do it himself, and I don’t know that he would want to can or preserve them all either, so he gave us the okay.
Not only that, but we chatted with this man for quite a while and made a new friend. He gave us a tour around his garden and once we chatted a while, even offered us his entire rhubarb harvest! The rhubarb was so huge that it was basically out of control and he was going to take the lawn mower to it if we didn’t want it.
We collected all of the fruit we could off of the tree, accepted a large bag of rhubarb, shook hands, and told him that we’d be back with some cherry preserves for him! That day, we even left him with a pint of apricot preserves to say thank you!
Picking Some Canned Cherry Recipes
The next question was… what do we do with all of these cherries! We already have jams in what seems like every flavor imaginable but jams are also versatile so we figured that we could do a jam with some of the cherries. We wanted to try a mead but wouldn’t be ready for another batch for an entire week and didn’t think the cherries would last that long. We also tried to keep in mind that our sweet teeth felt pretty satisfied and we wanted to create things on the more savory side.
So what did we end up with? Keep reading!
Necessary Canning Supplies
We hope to do a full post soon on getting started with canning, but one of the things we have in our homestead toolkit is a canning box that we pull out every time we get ready to can. It has everything we need and every tool has a specific purpose.
- Water-bath canner or pressure canner: The pressure canner can be used as a water-bath canner if you only want one tool for both jobs. Most frequently we use a water-bath canner that holds about seven half-pint jars. This is good for most recipes but if we’re really canning in bulk, we’ll use our Presto canner that’s a bit larger. However, it feels overkill for most of the things we do so why waste water if it’s not necessary?
- Mason jars, lids and rings: We always have on hand pint-sized, half-pint sized and quart-sized mason jars so that we’re always ready to can. It’s recommended to have new lids for each round of canning, although the rings and jars can be re-used.
- Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving: This is our canning bible, especially as we are newbies. I start here with every recipe, and if I find a recipe on the internet, I compare it always to a recipe in here as these are tried, tested and safe. It has lots of great info on why we do what we do, how to can safely, and lots of great info on the pH of different foods.
- Ball utensil set: I didn’t purchase this right away because I didn’t know if I really needed it or not… after my first canning session, I bought this immediately! Each tool really has its own purpose including the jar lifter, lid lifter (from the scalding hot water), jar funnel and air bubble remover.
- Outdoor 3-burner portable stove: While I tried canning in our RV the first time, canning can be rather messy so we bought a 3-burner outdoor cooking stove and love it. We actually cook our real meals on this stove too as it’s too hot indoors to cook.
Simple Canned Cherry Preserves
Okay, okay… even though we feel like we potentially have way too many jams and preserves already (huckleberry, huckleberry / jalapeno, apricot, currant, thimbleberry jam) we made a hefty batch of this.
As stated already somewhere on the blog, we’ve been using jams and preserves as a meat glaze and it has changed our lives! We feel that jam alone is delicious on meat but it’s also extremely easy to dress up a plain preserve as a meat glaze. Can you imagine adding a little hot sauce (or something else) to a cherry preserve? Yum!
The recipe we used was the cherry preserves recipe from the Ball Blue Book. We like preserve recipes because they rarely call for additional pectin. We like our jams and preserves on the runny side, especially as we use them as a glaze, and apparently traditional preserves are supposed to be on the runnier side compared to a jelly which is generally firm.
This recipe called for cherries and sugar. That’s it!
If you browse Pinterest for cherry jam recipes, there are all sorts of ways you can dress up an otherwise boring preserve or jam. You can try adding things like Amaretto, almond extract, vanilla extract, lime, habaneros, and the list goes on. We were curious about some of these things but in the end, simple is safe, and we really do want our jams to be a staple in our diet rather than to be seen as an exotic luxury not compatible with most foods.
We ended up with over six pints of canned cherry preserves! Score!
Getting Adventurous With Cherry Chutney
The next thing we tried was a chutney. If you’re like us, you really don’t know just exactly what a chutney is. Rather than try to explain it, I’ll link to Wikipedia on the subject matter! To my understanding, it’s a combination of things including fruit, vegetables, vinegar, spices and even sugars. It can be used with most anything including meat dishes, as a glaze, as a side, with rice, with flatbread, and even as an appetizer such as with cheese and crackers. To me, the idea of a chutney is versatile but isn’t overwhelmingly sweet like a jam, so I decided to give it a go.
I ended up stalking Pinterest for an hour or so and decided to try out this recipe. It sounds a little bit weird but so did the apricot salsa we made which was delicious, so we gave it a go!
I tried the tweak the recipe to end up with six pints of chutney, but in the end it cooked down to three pints. This made me somewhat happy because the flavor is very… unique… and I think we will be able to make a tasty dish out of it in the future but it certainly won’t be a staple. I do feel it would be better if we tried to prepare some sort of Indian-based meal, but at least it may get our creative juices flowing in the middle of winter when we have nothing better to do!
My advice to you is… be creative! If you have A LOT of fruit to use as we did, maybe try a small batch of something that is new and crazy so that if it fails you still have a lot of fruit left. If you only have a small amount of fruit, it may be wise to stick with something safe unless you aren’t attached to the idea of being able to rely on that fruit down the road.
Last But Not Least a Natural, Probiotic Cherry Soda
Jesse and I recently picked up a copy of the book Nourishing Traditions which has become go-to reading material in our household!
We feel that the American diet is so far from what we traditionally ate, and we’re trying to get back to something both sustainable and that promotes health. This book places a heavy emphasis on fermented foods which contain a lot of probiotics, and some of the recipes in the book are for natural, probiotic sodas.
If this idea freaks you out… have you ever tried kombucha? If you have, a probiotic soda probably tastes very similar (we have yet to try ours… two more days!). If you haven’t had a fermented beverage of any sort, they are incredibly tasty! They taste like the non-fermented beverage but have a little zing to them. Kombucha is sold in most any store nowadays so if you see some, try it out! Everyone I have ever known that has tried it always reaches for a second bottle, just saying.
Store-bought fermented beverages are $2.50 to $3.00 a bottle… each quart of juice we created will create two bottles of soda, and since we have twelve quarts of juice, that’s 24 bottles of soda, or up to almost $75! Cost? A couple hours of our time!
UPDATE: Many of you have asked where to purchase these glass flip-top bottles. We bought these at a local brew shop but you can also buy them on Amazon here!
While I don’t know that it’s possible to retain the full nutritional qualities of these fermented beverages when canning them, it is possible to can the juice! If we have the juice, then we can make probiotic soda in small batches when we want it. Basically, once we have juice, all we need to do is add some whey or a ginger bug (see photo below), let sit for two days to ferment, and then refrigerate. We’ll let you know how it works out.
Making juice out of any fruit is quite simple. Basically, all you need to do is cook the fruit in water (5 cups fruit to 7 cups water to make two quarts of juice, for many fruits), add a cup of sugar, and can!
We ended up with twelve quarts of cherry juice to be used in future recipes. If our probiotic soda doesn’t work out, we can try kombucha, drink it plain or even make a mead out of it. The opportunities endlessness, and I’m not sad to have twelve quarts of organic juice sitting in our cabin!
We actually had someone else give us a couple pounds of bing cherries as well which we turned to juice, so that’s why the photo above has two different colors.
Bonus Recipe: Cinnamon Rhubarb Jam!
Since this kind man also gave us a HUGE bag of rhubarb (I’ve never seen rhubarb so big!), and since I’ve never had rhubarb that I’m aware of, we decided to try something that sounded bizarre! I didn’t like the taste of the rhubarb raw at all so making anything out of it intimidated me, but the cinnamon rhubarb jam recipe I found was intriguing.
The gal that made the recipe raved about it so much on her blog, that I just had to try it! Let me tell you… it’s amazing!
The slight tang of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the cinnamon is a great mix, although I’m not sure if we’ll use it as a meat glaze or not. We might just end up eating it straight out of the jar, or with peanut butter (because who needs the bread in a PB&J sandwich anyways?)!
Tomorrow, we’ll likely use up the rest of the rhubarb by creating rhubarb juice (can mix and match this to create fermented beverages) or we might even try a rhubarb wine that Jesse has the recipe for.
We don’t want to buy additional fruit to make say a strawberry rhubarb jam, but if you have any other suggestions on how to preserve rhubarb we’re all ears!
Moving On to Other Fruits & Preserving
We are nearing the bottom of our most recent fruit gathering, but I don’t think we’re done preserving for the season! Even though we are always pulled in too many directions at once, taking charge of our health, enhancing our skills in self-sufficiency, eating local, and lowering our food bill is something we like to prioritize as well.
Produce doesn’t wait for you to have free time to become ripe, nor does it ripen on your schedule, so if it’s available, you have to go get it and preserve it! We’ll let you know how this concept works for us throughout the next year. So far, we feel great about having so many home-canned goods sitting in our metaphorical pantry.
Next up…. more rhubarb, black currants , serviceberries, and…?
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