Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When The Cherry Trees Call...

Every year around the beginning of July, I'm up to my elbows in sour cherries. This year was no exception. There were 8 quarts of those red gems monopolizing my frig space until last night. I ended up freezing 4 bags and canning the rest.

Cherry. Pie. Filling. There is no describing how much better home-canned pie filling is than the store-bought stuff. Seriously. No comparison. Not to mention the cost savings! (Have you priced a can of Lucky Leaf lately?!) This pie filling is an amazing cheesecake topper. It's from one of my favorite canning cookbooks:

I changed the recipe slightly by omitting the antioxidant crystals/ascorbic acid crystals. They are used to maintain the cherries' crisp color, but because I'm not trying to win a blue ribbon at the county fair and I'm concerned with both flavor and thrifty preserving,  I skipped the crystals.

Give this pie filling a go. It won't disappoint. The most time-consuming part is pitting the cherries. And nine-year-olds are fantastic helpers!

Cherry Pie Filling
 makes about 6 pints

12 cups pitted fresh sour cherries
2 cups water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup Instant Clearjel powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

Pit cherries and place in cool water. Rinse and drain well. In an 8-quart pan, combine the cherries, 2 cups water and lemon juice. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or scorching. Boil gently for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the cherries to a strainer placed over a heatproof bowl. Drain well, reserving the juice. Combine the drained juice with the juice in the pan and set aside. Pour the cherries into a bowl. Cover and keep warm.

In an 8-quart pan, whisk together the sugar and Clearjel until very well combined. Add the warm reserved cherry juice to the sugar mixture all at once. Using a spoon, stir gently to thoroughly blend the cherry juice into the dry ingredients. Do not use a whisk, as it will cause the pie filling to contain air bubbles.

Over low heat, stirring gently, gradually heat the mixture until it is warm, the Clearjel is completely dissolved and the mixture turns translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not allow the filling to boil or it will contain air bubbles. Stir in the butter until well blended. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the almond extract, then fold in the cherries.

Spoon the pie filling into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Using a plastic knife, remove any trapped air bubbles by sliding it down the sides of the jars. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process both pint and quart jars in a 200F water bath for 30 minutes.

Listen for the beautiful sound of lids sealing and know that there is a delicious cherry cheesecake in your future :)

1 comment:

Susan said...

OH yes! Our neighbors have a cherry tree and every year they encourage us to come and pick as many as we can reach. I make cherry jam and pie and share it with them (they said they would like one or two jars of cherry jam and one or two slices of pie and that's it). What gracious neighbors, yes?

Your pie filling sounds delicious Marie - I'll have to try that next year for sure.


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