Homemade Maraschino Cherries

July 23, 2011

I missed most of last year’s cherry season due to vacation. And after this year’s cherry crop disaster in California and the Northeast, I was afraid my son would face another year with with severely limited cherries. Fortunately, Washington State’s cherry crop was only delayed due to below average temperatures; it was not a total washout. With Bing cherries on sale this week for $2/lb, I bought a full 9-pounds of raw cherries (my maximum capacity based upon the bowls and pots I own).  Also I modified my processing  this year to reduce the amount of heat exposure to which the cherries undergo during Day 2; my goal being to give a firmer texture without affecting the flavor.

Sweet cherries preserved for the next 12 months

Of course, Royal Anne cherries are traditional for Maraschino cherries. Their very light color makes them a perfect blank slate so that the artificial dye can gives them their classic neon red. But I use Bing cherries because they are a fraction of the price. When there’s a bumper crop cherries can on sale for as little as $1/lb, so making twenty pounds of Maraschino Cherries (and juice) only costs $12. This year they cost about $23.

Comments:

  1. Depending upon what part of the country you pickling salt may be available. It does not contain iodine or anti-caking agents. But because I live just outside of NYC, I can only get Kosher salt. Be sure to check the ingredient list to verify that it only contains salt. The anit-caking agents will cause your syrup to be cloudy. If you use pickling salt you will need to alter the amount, because kosher salt is less dense.
  2. During the pitting process I lined my counter with 3-foot strips of plastic wrap, which made clean up very easy.
  3. If you don’t have a cherry pitter, they cost under $10, but there are numerous do-it-yourself cherry pitters on the web; e.g. here, here and here.
  4. Some online recipes call for using Alum, e.g. here and here. It is sometime used to help keep the cherries crisp. But I do not recommend using it because it is toxic to human in “large” quantities; large being just 1 ounce.
  5. Some of our favorite things to make with the cherry juice are: Shirley Temples (using Cherry juice in lieu of Grenadine), Malibu Bay Breeze, and added to Sangria in lieu of 1/4 cup of sugar.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: $24.00
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Large.
Start time Friday Evening. Ready at: Sunday Morning

Nine Pounds Raw Cherries:

9-pounds cherries
4 quarts water (Friday PM)
1/2 cup kosher salt, not table salt!
12 cups sugar (6 pounds)
3-1/2 cups cold water (Saturday AM)
juice of 3 regular lemon
1/2 ounce red food coloring
2-1/2 teaspoon almond extract (Sunday AM)
Yields: 12 to 14 pint jars

FRIDAY PM – The Pickling Process. (Takes 2 hour.)

  • Bring kosher salt (or pickling salt, but never table salt) and the 4 quarts of water to a boil; about 10 minutes. Stir until salt is dissolved.
  • Wear an apron or old clothes.  Wash, stem and remove seeds using a cherry pitter, immediately placing into cold water. (8 to 9 minutes per lb).
  • Drain cherries into large bowl, then pour pickling solution over your pitted cherries.
  • Put a plate to weight down the cherries to prevent them from floating above water line.
  • Cover with plastic wrap; Allow to cool for an hour then refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.

SATURDAY AM – Marinating the Cherries. (Takes about 45 minutes)

  • The next day, drain the cherries and throw away the brine. Use the plate (that held down the cherries all night) to hold back the cherries while you dump the water.
  • Rinse cherries thoroughly by means of repeated cold water baths. Rinse at least 7 or 8 times. Set cherries aside for the time being.
  • In a large pot, combine 6-pounds sugar and the 3-1/2 cups of cold water.
  • Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (10 to 12 minutes)
  • Pour the hot sugar mixture over the cherries.
  • Add lemon juice and (optional) red food coloring; gently mix to incorporate. I must warn you that if you taste the cherries now you will be afraid that you’ve ruined them with salt. But don’t worry; it’ll all work out in the end.
  • Cover with plastic wrap; Allow to cool at room temperature for an hour then refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring from time to time.

SUNDAY AM – Preserving Process. (Takes about 1-1/2 hours.)

  • Run 12 pint jars and lid bands through dishwasher utilizing the heated dry-cycle (at least 60 minutes), and after about 30 minutes bring a large pot of water to boil (for preparing loaded jars).
  • In a separate shallow pan, heat lid inserts in simmering water (180-degrees) until ready for use. Do not boil or they will not seal properly.
  • Drain the juices into a large empty pot; setting drained cherries aside.
  • Cook the juices, uncovered, until just reaches a boil (about 10 minutes). BE CAREFUL: the juices will bubble over quickly. I’d recommend a thermometer with the alarm set to 200-degrees.
  • Turn off heat, add cherries immediately. Add almond extract and gently stir for 2 minutes (to remove air).
  • Pour or ladle the boiling hot fruit and juice directly into the prepared pint jars, only filling 1/2 to 2/3rds with fruit.
  • Stir with non-metallic spoon or gently shake to remove air bubble. Fill to 1/8″ of brim with more juice. Wipe the brim clean to ensure a good seal.
  • Seal the jars by place heated lid insert onto jar, holding down in the center while tightening lid ring.
  • In large pot of boiling water, carefully load the sealed jars. Use a jar lifter, or combination of tongs and large spoon.
  • Add water if needed to a level of 1 inch above jars and cover pot.
  • When water boils vigorously (about 10 minutes), lower heat to maintain a gentle boil and process for recommended time: 20 minutes for pint jars, and 25 minutes for quart jar (adjust for altitude).

SUNDAY AFTERNOON – Wrap up. (5 minutes)

  • When cooled check for seal integrity by pressing top; should not move up or down. (all my seals were fine)
  • Store for up to 1 year. Write date and contents on lid to avoid any confusion.

Triple Berry Jam

August 15, 2010

Last week I made Grape Jelly for the first time, which came out great for the kids (my kids love grape jelly best of all). But I also wanted to make some Jam for adults.

Then yesterday as we drove in the country, and I couldn’t resist stopping at a pick-your-own blackberry/raspberry berry patch. Officially it’s $4 per pint, but we must have eaten at least an extra pint during the picking. Having our fill while picking, I was able to use our entire pint of berries in my “Triple Berry Jam”; strawberry, blackberry and raspberry.

From the bush to the jar in less than 2 hours.

While the Jelly uses only the fruit juice (all fruit is removed using cheese cloth), jam includes the mashed and cooked fruit.

Issue:

  1. Many recipes I saw don’t use pectin at all, so I payed in conservative and only used 1-1/2 tablespoons. But next year I will use a full 1/4 cup. It doesn’t affect the taste, but I would have preferred a little thicker jam.
  2. While I have never made this recipe, I’m going to count it as an “old favorite”. It’d be cheating to count two recipes for jelly/jam within a week.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $8 for 5-lbs of jam.
How much work? Small/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Small/Medium.
Start time 2:00 PM. Finish time 3:30pm

Triple Berry Jam Recipe:

4 cups strawberries
2 cups blackberries and raspberries
5 cups sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup fruit pectin (2 oz)

  • Run jars through dishwasher to sterilize, using the heated dry cycle until ready to fill.
  • Wash the berries by placing in large bowl under running plain cold water.
  • Remove hulls and cut strawberries into quarters.
  • Put the berries into a large pot and mash using a wooden spoon or potatoe masher
  • Put over medium/high heat, stirring occasionally, bringing to a full boil (about 12 minutes).
  • Mix together the dry pectin with about 1/4 cup of the sugar; which will prevent the pectin from clumping.
  • When the mixture has reached a full boil, stir in the pectin.
  • Then stir in all the remaining sugar.
  • Return to boil (about 8 minutes) and boil hard for 1 minute.  To see if your jam is ready, you can put one teaspoon of the hot mixture onto a frozen plate, if it gelatinizes, the jam is ready.
  • Put the jar lids into a shallow pan of hot, but not quite boiling water for 5 minutes. Do not boil.
  • Fill the jars to within 1/4 -inch of the top, wipe any spilled jelly off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.
  • Then put the filled jars into the boiling water; keep the jars covered with at least 1 inches of water. In general, boil them for 5 minutes, which is what SureJell (the makers of the pectin) recommend.
  • Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them.
  • Once the jars are cool, check the sea by press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down, it is not sealed. You could put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it.

Grape Jelly

August 8, 2010

The bounty of summer fruits is so brief, I feel cheated if I don’t take advantage them while they’re here. Beautiful, flavorful grapes for just $0.80/lb. Wow!

The boys loved it, and 2 hours for a years worth of jelly is not much time at all. Overall, it cost a little more than the store brand jelly, but cane sugar costs more than high fructose corn syrup.

 

I can actually taste the fruit!

 

Result: 4-stars; if Welch’s is 3-stars. A little more spreadable, and the flavor actually taste like it comes from grapes.

Recipe:

Grape Jelly can only be made in small batches – do not double the recipe. Check the directions that came with your pectin; typically, you need 7 cups of sugar to 5 cups of grape juice and one box of regular pectin. Also, you could use 5 cups of grape juice (without added sugar); if you feel like making jelly in December.

5-pounds black or concord grapes
1-1/4 box pectin, e.g. SureJell
7 cups sugar (just over 3-pounds)

  • Wash the jars and lid rings in Dishwasher.
  • Wash the grapes by placing in large bowl under running plain cold water. Remove any large stems or leaves.
  • Run grapes through food processor in 4 batches; about 30 seconds per batch.
  • Put the crushed grapes in a large pot over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Pour grapes through two thickness of damp cheesecloth in a colander. Use a spatula to work grapes and push out juices. Finally, I lifted up the cheesecloth and gave it a nice final squeeze. You’ll need about 5 cups of juice.
  • Mix together the dry pectin with about 1/4 cup of the sugar; this will prevent the pectin from clumping.
  • Stir the pectin mix into the grape juice and put into large over medium to high heat. Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally; about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Put the jar lids into a shallow pan of hot, but not quite boiling water for 5 minutes. Do not boil
  • When the grape mix has reached a full boil, add the remaining 6 and 3/4 cups of sugar.
  • Return to boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
  • Fill the jars to within 1/4 -inch of the top, wipe any spilled jelly off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.
  • Then put them into the boiling water; keep the jars covered with at least 1 inches of water. In general, boil them for 5 minutes, which is what SureJell (the makers of the pectin) recommend.
  • Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them.
  • Once the jars are cool, check the sea by press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down, it is not sealed. You could put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $7.00 (excluding cost of the reusable jars)
How much work? Small.
How big of a mess?  Small/Medium.
Preparation time is 2 hours.

 

Extracting the juice from the grape pulp.

 

 

Yields 9 jars for $7

 


Homemade Maraschino Cherries

August 4, 2010

Last year I started a new tradition for my oldest son Matthew; affectionately known as “the cherry monster”. During peak season when cherries go on sale for as little as $1/lb, we began to make a year’s worth of homemade Maraschino Cherries. Making twenty pounds of Maraschino Cherries (and juice) only costs $15. Of course, Royal Anne cherries are what gives them their classic neon red, but I use Bing cherries because they are a quarter the price.

Unfortunately, I missed the peak cherry season this year, and had to make this year’s batch with $3 cherries. I couldn’t justify buying 10-pounds of raw cherries at that price, so I settled for just 3 pounds. This will yield about 5 pounds of cherries and juice (4 to 5 pints). It’s going to be a lean year for the cherry monster.

 

Trying to make the best of summer last all year long.

 

Our favorite things to make with the cherry juice are: Shirley Temples (using Cherry juice in lieu of Grenadine), Malibu Bay Breeze, and added to Sangria in lieu of 1/4 cup of sugar.

Recipe for homemade Maraschino Cherries

Ten Pounds Raw Cherries:
10 pounds cherries
4 quarts water (Friday PM)
1/2 cup kosher or pickling salt, not table salt!
14 cups sugar
4 cups cold water (Saturday AM)
juice of 2 regular lemon,
1 ounce red food coloring
2 teaspoon almond extract
Yields: 14 to 15 pint jars

Three Pounds Raw Cherries:
3 pounds cherries
1-1/2 quarts water (Friday PM)
3 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt, not table salt!
5 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups cold water (Saturday AM)
juice of 1 small lemon
3/4 tablespoon red food coloring
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
Yields: 4 to 5 pint jars

Note: The cooking times below are for 3 to 5 pounds of cherries.

FRIDAY PM – The Pickling Process. (Takes 1 to 2 hour.)

  • Wash, stem and remove seeds using a cherry pitter, immediately placing into cold water. Wear an apron or old clothes.  (8 to 9 minutes per lb).
  • Bring pickling salt (never table salt) and the 2 quarts of water to a boil; about 10 minutes. Stir until salt is dissolved.
  • Let cool for 15 minutes,
  • Drain cherries into large bowl, then pour pickling solution over your pitted cherries.
  • Put a plate to weight down the cherries to prevent them from floating above water line.
  • Cover with plastic wrap; Allow to cool for an hour then refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.

SATURDAY AM – Marinating the Cherries. (Takes about 45 minutes)

  • The next day, drain the cherries and throw away the brine.
  • Rinse cherries thoroughly by means of repeated cold water baths. Set cherries aside for the time being.
  • In a large pot, combine the sugar and the few cups of cold water.
  • Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (10 to 12 minutes)
  • Add the cherries to the pot; bring back to a boil (10 minutes), stirring occasionally, continue boiling cherries for 2 additional minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl. Add lemon juice and (optional) red food coloring.
  • Cover with plastic wrap; Allow to cool for an hour then refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring from time to time.

SUNDAY AM – Preserving Process. (Takes about 1-1/2 hours.)

  • Run 6 pints worth of jars and lid bands through dishwasher (about 60 minutes), and after about 30 minutes bring a large pot of water to boil (for preparing loaded jars).
  • Heat lid inserts separately in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.
  • Drain the juices into an empty pot; setting cherries aside.
  • Cook the juices uncovered until just reaches a boil (about 10 minutes). Careful: juices will bubble over quickly.
  • Turn off heat, add cherries immediately. Add almond extract and gently stir for 2 minutes (to remove air).
  • Pour the boiling hot fruit and juice directly into the prepared pint jars. Use a small spoon to coax the fruit into jars, only filling 1/2 to 2/3rds with fruit.
  • Stir with non-metallic spoon or gently shake to remove air bubble. Fill to 1/8″ of brim with more juice. Wipe the brim clean.
  • Seal the jars by place heated lid insert onto jar, holding down in the center while tightening lid ring.
  • In large pot of boiling water, carefully load the sealed jars. Use a jar lifter, or combination of tongs and spoon.
  • Add water if needed to a level of 1 inch above jars and cover pot.
  • When water boils vigorously (about 10 minutes), lower heat to maintain a gentle boil and process for recommended time: 20 minutes for pint jars, and 25 minutes for quart jar (adjust for altitude).

SUNDAY AFTERNOON – Wrap up. (5 minutes)

  • When cooled check for seal integrity by pressing top; should not move up or down.
  • Store for up to 1 year. Write date and contents on lid to avoid any confusion.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: $12.00
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Large.
Start time Friday Evening. Ready at: Sunday Morning


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