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Canning & Freezing Sweet Cherries

Why pay grocery-store prices for canned sweet cherries? Canning & freezing your own sweet cherries saves you a lot of money. In this post we show you how.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, check the price of canned sweet cherries. After you recover from the shock, get yourself a few premium cherry trees, like Emperor Francis Sweet Cherry or Stella Sweet Cherry. With an average harvest of three bushels each, your crop is worth at least $893*! Not only will you save a bushel of money, your own preserved fruit won’t have a “tinny” taste and will have retained considerably more nutrients than store-bought cherries.

*Based on Walmart’s per-case price of S&W Dark Sweet Pitted Cherries, 16 oz., as of 5/20/13.

Canning

Serving Cherries

You will need:

  • Five quarts or 10 pints of fresh cherries
  • A cherry pitter
  • A canning pot and lid
  • Canning rack
  • Canning tongs or jar lifter (included in our Canning Set)
  • A wide-mouth jar funnel (included in our Canning Set)
  • Five 1-quart or ten 1-pint canning jars, with lids and screw-on rings
  • A ladle
  • A chopstick or skewer, washed in hot, soapy water
  • A couple of wet paper towels and 4-6 dry ones, laid out on your counter
  • Additional Supplies: colander, large bowl, wooden spoon, canning labels

Directions:

  1. Pick through the cherries and remove any stems, leaves, and too-soft fruit. Wash and drain well in a colander. Pit your cherries (easily done with a cherry pitter) and place in a large bowl.
  2. Fill your canning pot with water, about two to four inches above the tallest jar you’re going to fill. Put the rack in the bottom of the pot and start boiling the water.
  3. On a second burner, make your syrup.
  4. Once the canning-pot water is boiling, use the tongs to carefully drop in the disassembled jars, lids and screw rings. Simmer for two minutes, remove with tongs and place the items on the clean, dry paper towels on your counter. This process will sterilize your jars and lids.
  5. Bring your syrup to a low boil. Drop the cherries in and cook for 1-½ minutes, carefully mixing with a wooden spoon to make sure all cherries have been scalded. Ladle the cherries into your hot jars, leaving one inch of headroom. Slide the chopstick or skewer down the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Ladle in a little more boiling syrup until there is ½ inch of headroom left. Take a wet paper towel and run it around the rubber portion of the seal, then clean any syrup drips from the top of the jar. Put the seal on the jar then screw the ring on tightly. Repeat until all of your jars are sealed.
  6. Pick up all of the jars with the tongs and place them on the rack in the boiling water bath. Cover and process quart-sized jars for 15 minutes, pint-sized jars for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. You should hear the jars “pop” after a few minutes. That means they are sealed. If a jar seal doesn’t pop, refrigerate it and use within 3 weeks.
  7. Label and date your jars. Canned fruits will keep up to two years.

Syrup:

Medium syrup is best for sweet cherries. This recipe makes 5-½ cups of syrup. Plan on about one cup of syrup per quart of fruit.

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 T. lemon juice

In a large saucepan, mix the sugar and water over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Keep the syrup hot (but not boiling) until you are ready to can your cherries.

Freezing

Pitted Cherries

You will need:

  • Fresh cherries
  • A cherry pitter
  • Plastic freezer bags
  • Cookie sheet or jelly roll pan
  • Plastic wrap

Directions:

  1. Sort, wash and pit your cherries with a cherry pitter, then measure them by the quart.
  2. Assemble enough plastic freezer bags to accommodate the amount of cherries you want to freeze. Label each bag with the contents and date.
  3. Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and with plastic wrap.
  4. Arrange each batch of cherries on the pan so they are not touching.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and place the pan on a level freezer shelf for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove and quickly put the cherries in freezer-proof plastic bags, squeeze out any excess air, seal the bags and place them in the freezer. Will keep frozen for 8-12 months.

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