Friday, June 18, 2010
June CanJam assigned by Dana and Joel @ WellPreserved.ca was _erries, which left room for quite a few options but availability is still an issue. The obvious June choice here in Ontario is strawberries but I'm not a fan of preserved strawberries in any form other than frozen -I prefer to eat myself sick on them while they're fresh! Blueberries, and my personal favourite raspberries are still a few weeks off. I picked some local white mulberries as a possibility ( more on them in another post) but with luck and weather in our favour, local sweet cherries ripened 3 weeks earlier than expected!
Not Far From The Tree, the fruit picking organization I work with is currently expanding again and the early cherries caught us off guard- it took a few days to get the team rolling and Colette and I were running out of time to make the CanJam deadline. I decided not to wait for a sanctioned pick and went on a renegade pick. There's a wonderful cherry tree right on the main city street I live on, which always goes unpicked. I've walked past it for the last few years, dismayed at the sight of all those delectable cherries getting smushed into the sidewalk. After acquiring the homeowner's permission I dragged over my step ladder and a hoe ( for grabbing just out of reach branches) and started picking away! A neighbour came out to see what I was doing and decided to join in the fun- she grabbed a straight ladder and with me footing it ( always use safe ladder techniques for picking, kids!) scrambled up on the porch roof where she could gain access to the higher branches. The sight of two grown women hanging out of a tree was like a beacon- all kinds of people stopped to watch us and a few more joined in. A lovely older woman ( she confessed to being 70 when she was halfway up the ladder) gave us advice she had learned from picking cherries back in her home country of Italy. When we had finished picking everything in reach we all walked away loaded with more cherries than we could carry- mine weighed in at 40 lbs!
Two days later Not Far from the Tree held the first picks of the season- I joined one and took home another 5 lbs as my share - we picked well over a 100lbs on just two trees! Looks like a record breaking year!
With that many cherries Colette and I decided to use them in a couple different recipes. The first approach was just a basic cherry preserve, recipe from the current canning bible, Well Preserved, 3rd edition by May Anne Dragon.
Delicious but time consuming - having to cook the cherries once, leave overnight then reheat the next day is too many steps for me. Not to mention I was running out of room- there were cherries everywhere and my kitchen was a disaster!
I've never attempted to pickle with alcohol before but after seeing a recipe for cherries preserved in brandy, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. All of the recipes we found called for pitted cherries and it's a fair bit of work! We developed a pretty good system using a chopstick and a gloved hand ( unless you like purple stained hands.) It's a bit messy and I suggest wearing old clothes and spreading newspaper or plastic around to catch the stray juice. Of course Colette and I were also consuming wine along with the cherries and I suspect the cherries weren't the only thing that were pickled in alcohol!
* 1 1/2 lb. cherries
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 3/4 cup water
* 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
* 4 cardamom pods
* 2 whole cloves
* 2 whole allspice
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 1 cup brandy
* 1-quart jar with lid
1. Pit cherries and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan bring sugar water, lemon juice, and spices
to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until slightly
reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes.
3. Turn off heat. Stir in brandy and cherries.
4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cherries to 1-quart jar.
Pour liquid over cherries to cover. Twist on lid.
5. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes, let cool, and store
in a cool, dark place (such as a cupboard) 6 weeks before using. Once opened, keep chilled.
We doubled the recipe and somehow ended up with two quart , and three pint jars full, even after eating many of them straight from the pot! These are fantastically good and I can't wait to try them after they've had time to age.