The Day of Canned Cherry Recipes (4.5 Gallons of Organic Cherries!)

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?

finished canned cherries

canned cherry recipes and ideas

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!

cherry canning recipes

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.

fruit picking cherry tree

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.

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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!

canned cherry preserves

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!

canning cherries

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.

canned cherry chutney

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!

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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.

cherry soda recipe

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.

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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!

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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.

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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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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

Comments

  1. Jenny says

    Hi!! Love your blog!! I am retired and on a fixed income. I have enjoyed your journey to date. Loved watching you forage for wild food and also the cherry and apricot adventures and canning. I was hoping you could tell me where I could get some of those glass bottles with the rubber stopper and “hinge” that you put your cherry juice into? I am new to the whole canning thing! Thanks so much. Wish I had been adventurous and resourceful like you two when I was your age!!! (im almost 70 years old). Wishing you all the success and may God bless you in all of your life’s endeavors!!

    • says

      Hey Jenny! We bought our jars from a local brew store but they are also available on amazon here: http://amzn.to/2aKZ2CI

      Have fun canning – it’s a blast! We’re new as well but rapidly gaining experience! I don’t think you’re ever too old to start being resourceful. It’s not something that is promoted in our culture so it’s hard to feel bad for not being that way from an early age! We wish we started earlier as well but hey we start when we can :-) Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Suzanne says

    I hope you will be able to have a couple of “downtime” days soon. Just reading about all your canning/preserving activities is exhausting!!
    Fellow canning enthusiasts know to return empty jars WITH rings. ( I always hope they include the lid as well). Even so, every time I give away a preserved item, I always ask they return the jars, this way I don’t constantly have to get more jars. So far I end up receiving 70 to 80 % back. Just a thought.
    We have used our sour cherry jam, which has always been very runny, over vanilla ice cream. I usually do an ice cream sauce batch as my end of day cleaning up. Usually there are some fruit remaining, the pot has residue, etc. I toss whatever fruit remains in the pot, add some brown sugar to taste, and just let it boil down for a while. Fill jars and done!
    Thank you for all your great blogs and pictures…..

    • says

      We definitely need to take some downtime soon but downtime from canning will likely be running other errands. One of these days, we will try to park it by a lake though! Yes, we have been asking some folks to return the jars… at least folks that are friends and live nearby! We don’t hesitate to spend money on new jars but that said, it IS nice to get them back so that we can continue to gift-give and can affordably! Your cherry jam sounds delicious, as does cherry jam over ice cream! And you’re welcome on sharing our stories on our blog… we hope that it’s useful or inspirational to many!

      • Nonnie says

        I always see really great canning jars at thrift stores. They are much cheaper than the store bought ones as well. My mother was a canner I wish I would have learned from her. I really enjoy your blog and sharing your ideas with us all. Thank you for that.
        My hubs and I just 5 acres Monday 7/25/16 and will be starting our off grid venture. Baby steps at first.
        We are really looking forward to showing our grandson’s a different way of life. So they will have that experience.

        • says

          Congrats on your new land! Yes, I think that will be excellent for your grandsons to see a different way of living? I think you’ll love it!

      • Mary Hall says

        We prefer our jam runny. Although we rarely eat it on bread, with a more lose consistency, it makes it better for adding to yogurt, on top of pancakes, waffles or ice-cream, as part of a sauce for meat, into smoothies, etc.

  3. says

    Simple rhubarb recipe
    Makes a tart sauce which is an excellent contrast with icecream or other sweet desserts.

    Try to harvest the rhubarb by wiggling it back and forth so that the pink part where it attaches to the crown comes free. This is the sweetest part of the rhubarb. Remove any papery brown edge from that pink part and the leaf. Then chop the stem in 1/2 inch slices.
    Use only 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan to start the cooking because a lot of liquid will come out of the rhubarb.
    Place raisins up to 1/3 the volume of the rhubarb on top and start the steaming with a lid on.
    Be careful not to have the heat to high because when the rhubarb gets broken down it can foam up out of the pot. As the rhubarb cooks down the raisins will absorb the extra liquid and give out their sweetness to balance the tart rhubarb.
    The sauce can be jared and water bathed as soon as it reaches the desired consistency.

    And the size of those rhubarb stalks is the normal size for an old crown that has been heavily mulched each winter. I tried to dig one up because it would be in a new drain field. after I got down 3 feet and there was no indication that I was any where near the end of the tap root I decided to wait for the backhoe. Turns out that the drain field ended just before it got to the rhubarb so it was saved.

    • says

      That sounds like a delicious recipe! Our cinnamon rhubarb jam is TO DIE FOR so if we get more, we just may try out what you recommend! Thanks for the rhubarb harvesting tips. We didn’t harvest this plant but not much of the stalk at all was pink but it still tasted good, and I had no idea the taproot could be that big!!

  4. Mary Hall says

    I think it’s AMAZING that you have been able to locate free foods for canning. I took up canning several years ago, recruited my daughter and son-in-law and now we have a tradition with the end result yummy food that lasts year round! There’s nothing like opening a jar of tomatoes in January that you canned over the summer.

    I’ve learned that an immersion blender is an invaluable tool to help things move along (like apples when making applesauce, or whole tomatoes when making sauces and soups–yes, I often use whole tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes, for sauce. When your tomato bush is producing like mad, you want to preserve that produce!)

    Also, the current manufacturing recommendation is to simply wash the lids in hot water with soap, not to simmer them. (And never boil the lids during preparation, as it could cause the rubber/plastic material to deteriorate, causing your seals to fail later.)

    • says

      I can only imagine what opening up a jar of canned summer goods feels like in winter! An immersion blender is on our wish list. We don’t need one today but right now, we are using a vitamix for blending and when we’re limited on space, it’s annoying to get another larger appliance dirty. We will keep our eyes open at Goodwill or else buy one new eventually. I just found that out that the lids don’t need to be simmered… things you learn over time! I also found out that it’s not recommended by Ball anymore to pre-sterilize jars when they will be processed already in the water-bath canner for 10 minutes. I tried those two things out on the last couple batches of food so we’ll see if that bites me in the but or not! It all makes sense.

      • Mary Hall says

        I don’t pre-sterilize the jars, either, especially if they’ve just come out of the dishwasher (probably not an option for you).

        And I got my immersion blender for $2 at a yard sale. I’ve gotten my $2 worth several times over!

  5. canadagal says

    Hi: We have a lot of rhubarb & use it for juice or fruit. To give it different flavours I can some plain & some with a variety of fruits such as saskatoons, raspberries, apricots, raisins, oranges etc. It takes on the other fruits flavour & stretches them out when they may be expensive or hard to get. I make rhubarb juice by filling a pail (what ever size you can fill with cut up rhubarb) & then pouring boiling water over the fruit to cover it. Leave for 48 hours, strain, add sugar to taste, bottle, & hot water bath. When opening you can dilute down with equal amounts of water or to your taste. This is a very popular drink in our community.

  6. J says

    I like blogs about doing things frugally and for one’s self. You might enjoy rootsimple.com.
    They have a zero-electricity, 100% solar dehydrating method for drying fruits, etc. If you get a bunch of apricots or cherries (or any fruit) next year and haven’t worked through all the canned items from this year, you might consider dehydrating them (like raisins and dried tomatoes). That way you can continue to use them year round. You might even make your own granola or trail mix with them.

  7. Kait Hal says

    Well it’s September 2017 & I’ve decided all the Montmorency Cherries in my freezer are going to be canned.! Salsa, & jam & …???… I guess I will also can an amount in a jar to be able to make a pie if that’s possible. This year was not a good one as there were a couple of high eighties days at the wrong time & our cherries looked like they were all bruised. :(

    But Your talking about Rhubarb caught my interest. we’ve ALWAYS eaten it. My Nana Mary used to can it by the jars! They used Rhubarb Sauce for Breakfast! Yup, no foolin’! The adults would have a sauce dish (smaller than a cereal or soup bowl) of Rhubarb Sauce along with a couple of slices of toast (buttered) & their coffee & they were ready to go to work.

    Now Nana Mary did not make Rhubarb & strawberries. But she DID make Rhubarb & Pineapple sauce! That is Excellent.

    My batches of it vary. Sometimes I use chunk pineapple & other times I use crushed pineapple. What I do is make the basic Rhubarb sauce on top of the stove, toss in a can of crushed pineapple, taste it & if it is not sweet enough, add sugar. The amount of Pineapple depends on the amount of Rhubarb… I sorta figure 1/4 Pineapple & 3/4 Rhubarb. I have also been known to pitch in a dollop (healthy teaspoon) of Cinnamon – I like Saigon Cinnamon.

    Another trick I have done is instead of using sugar… I am using HONEY! Yup! Good stuff Maynard! Honey doesn’t thicken like sugar so when you are cooking it, you may have to cook it longer to let it cook down or thicken or it will be really runny. when it suits me for thickness, I fill my pint jars & do the water bath thing. My fruit cellar gets filed & my friends get tasty Christmas presents.

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