A Very Cherry Christmas


For me Christmas has always been about cherries. The luscious red colour staining lips and fingers and the sensuousness of spitting the pips and hanging them over my ears as earrings, are all fond memories.

The last few days have seen me in cherry madness. A grower in the Dandenongs was practically giving a way 20-litre buckets of seconds cherries for a $4.00 donation or to swap for a jar of preserves. So off to the hills I drove on a very hot and busy pre Christmas day. These cherries would have otherwise been thrown out and I was going to save them! Well I got home at about 7.00pm and the cherries needed to be washed and sorted. I had to throw many away but heh there were some good ones there. I sorted them into ones that could be processed in syrup and the ones with the bad bits removed for making jam. Once sorted, I put them in the fridge.

The next day, I didn’t get back to the cherries until after dinner. Next I sat on a stool and began pipping with my newly purchased cherry pitter. Wow what a beautiful tool this is! It’s an OXO Good Grips cherry/olive pitter complete with shatter shield which didn’t completely work going by the look of my toaster after pitting. Cherry pitting requires a Zen approach so I turned to RN and was fortunate to hear music by Andrea Keller, lovely, spacious, creative jazz perfect for cherry pitting.

After pitting, steralising the jars, making the sugar syrup and processing the cherries in a hot water bath I finally went to bed a very tired girl after midnight!
But I woke up to six lovely jars of cherries!
For all the work involved and my concerns about safe bottling I’m not sure if I’d do this with seconds cherries again. The time and effort involved is worth more to me than getting cherries for almost nothing. I think next time I’d buy only the best premium cherries and bottle these for peace of mind. To find out more about safe bottling this is a good link http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/cherry_whole.html.
I am concerned about my ecological footprint, I like to buy local and I like the Permaculture motto: refuse, reuse, recycle… but then there was my petrol to get from inner city Melbourne to the Dandenongs. However, I did rescue something that would have been thrown away and I don’t have room for pigs in my back yard. All in all, safety when bottling will always come first for me so next time I’ll get the best and least damaged fruit. Now for the recipe which comes from the Fowlers book “Secrets of Preserving”.

250 grams quality cherries. Select bright, uniformly colored cherries that are mature (of ideal quality for eating fresh or cooking) washed and pitted.
2 cups castor sugar
6 cups water
(These amounts make a light syrup. Sugar amounts can be increased to taste but not decreased for safety reasons)

Make a sugar syrup by boiling the water and sugar for 5 minutes. Cool and strain through a muslin cloth
Thoroughly wash and dry 6 no 20 Fowler’s jars or equivalent sized jars
Place a little syrup in the bottom, fill jars with cherries, place a spatula in the side to let out air bubbles and top up with syrup leaving a head space of 12mm.
Place lids and clips on jars and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.
Leave to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Store in a cool place for up to 12 months.

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