M-Cherry Christmas Gifts

Nothing feels quite like having a stock pile of yummy chocolate-cherry preserves in the basement all ready for Christmas… did I mention it’s still June!

Last fall I found this recipe rather close to Christmas, and at the time there were no cherries anywhere, fresh or frozen, so I opted for a different gift for 12 co-workers. I couldn’t find this recipe online, but still wanted to share it with you, so I cite my favourite canning book: Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today, by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine (2006).

bowl of pitted cherries

First up: if you don’t have a cherry pitter, it’s worth investing. Mine looks like scissors, with a plunger bit to aim for the pit. I also recommend pitting as an outside job – you’d be surprised by the range a cherry can squirt across the kitchen!

Black Forest Preserves

  • 6 ½ cups granulated sugar (I used 4c sugar, 1c agave nectar)
  • 1/3 cup sifted cocoa
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped cherries (- if they’re too fine they will simply boil away)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 pouches liquid pectin
  • 4 tbsp amaretto liquor (optional) 

Now if you’ve never canned/jarred/bottled (whatever you call it), this may very well be a great place to start. This recipe is so easy, with timing being far less important than it is with many other canned recipes. Consider giving it a try and you too can have a go-to reserve of gifts ready in your basement!

preserves cooking and jars on cooling rack

Prepare canner, with hot water so that when it’s time to add canning jars it won’t take long to bring to a boil.

Mix sugar, cocoa until equally distributed; set aside. In large sauce pan/stockpot toss together chopped cherries and lemon juice, then add sugar and cocoa mixture and stir thoroughly. Watch carefully and stir until constant boiling cannot be stirred down.  Boil for 1 minute further and then add 2 packages of liquid pectin. Stir. Remove from heat and immediately add amaretto (if using). 

Meanwhile, sterilize 7-250ml jars. (I place mine, freshly washed, in a 250 degree oven until dry and pull them out when it’s time to fill.) Fill jars with hot cherry mixture leaving 1/4 inch head space. Add sterilized lid and screw ring on to jar until it’s finger tight. At this point they are ready to be added to the canner, once all 7 are assembled and canner is rolling boil, time for 10 minutes of the water bath boiling process. Upon completion, remove lid for a further 5min and then remove jars from water keeping upright. (If one tips it’s not the end of the world, just return it to the upright position for the cooling process on a rack or tea towel.)

cherry preserves in jar and over ice cream

I just love listening to my little jars seal with a pop for the duration of the afternoon or evening following the project. And once cooled you can enjoy the final product… luckily one of my 14 jars wasn’t full to the brim so I have an excuse to open it for a test.

…And now having seen the consistency of the product, slightly firmer than anticipated, I think it’s more suited as a layer in a black forest cake than dribbled on ice cream – or better yet mixed into ice cream during the making process … oh the wheels are turning now! One thing is for certain, it is delicious! This just tells you it’s a must try, and a great way to be creative with cherries before the season passes.

Enjoy!

 

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