Ta da! I did it, I conquered my fear of canning and was able to preserve 9 pints of delicious cherry pie filling that I made from the wonderful fresh sour cherries from my neighbor’s tree! I actually accomplished this a week ago, but am just now getting around to posting. I also have another basket full of cherries that I picked just before the weekend. They need to be pitted and I plan to make some cherry jam from some and hopefully another sour cherry almond cake. However this time I was thinking of making individual cakes, maybe in ramekins? Yum. :)
UPDATE: below is a list of recipes I have made so far with this batch of cherry pie filling (or with the fresh sour cherries before making the filling) END UPDATE
Here’s a recap of the cherry pie filling recipes I’ve tested so far:
Cherry Cake with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting
Cherry Pie Squares
Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Black Forest Brownie Bites
PROCESSING THE CHERRIES
So this cherry pie filling recipe is pretty much everywhere on the internet. I didn’t want to get complicated, especially since I was canning this, so I stuck to the recipe that I got from the Utah State University Extension Office, however the step by step photos are much better on the website PickYourOwn.org. However, FAIR WARNING, I discovered a few typos on the pick your own website, typos that conflicted with the recipe, so I stuck strictly with the recipe in the Utah University PDF and used Pick Your Own’s photos as a guide only.
First off, if you are lucky enough to pick fresh sour cherries, always try to keep the stems in tact until you are actually ready to use them. Once the stem is removed, the flesh of the cherry is exposed to the air and will begin to brown. Store your picked cherries in the refrigerator until you are ready to remove stems and pits, not more than a few days if possible.
See? Here’s the tree down the street from me! It’s pretty much picked clean now, between me, my neighbor’s father, and the birds, we didn’t let any go to waste. :)
When you are ready to pit your cherries, place them in a colander and give them a quick rinse under cold water. Remove the stem and pit the cherry.
I have this totally cool cherry pitter that removes 4 pits at once. I got it from a good friend of mine over at Kid Smart Living and it rocks! It has a little tray with 8 slots, 4 large for cherries like bing, and 4 small for sour cherries. As you can see from the picture above, I hadn’t figured that out yet and had the sour cherries in the big slots. :-/
You place the 4 cherries into the little slots, then just press down on the top of the pitter and lift it back up.
That’s it, pitted!
There’s a little collection tray underneath that catches the pits for you. It even came with a nifty little collapsable colander. After I pitted the cherries, I tossed them into the colander.
When the colander was full I gave them another quick rinse then dumped them into a large glass bowl.
When I was finished, it looked like a murder scene… Ha ha!
I wasn’t quite ready to can, so I placed all of the cherries into a large plastic container with a lid and covered them with water. I cut a lemon in half and squeezed some juice into the water and let them sit until the next day.
The first thing to do was to drain the cherries. However, I did not just drain the cherries and lose all of that glorious red water they had been soaking in! I reserved the water and used that in place of the water in the pie filling recipe.
Next I blanched them for one minute, though I definitely had to do several batches with the amount of cherries that I had. After each batch I needed to put them in a bowl or pot with a lid to keep the heat from escaping, so I just used the ceramic insert and lid from my Crockpot.
The next step is to combine the sugar and Clear Jel in a pot, then add the water. Clear Jel is a thickening agent, basically like cornstarch, but apparently it’s modified specifically for things like pie filling. You can’t find t at regular grocery stores, so I had to order mine online. So anyhoo, I combined the Clear Jel and sugar in a large pot, then I added the red water I had reserved earlier. After attempting to whisk it all together, I then added the cinnamon and almond extract. There was no need for me to add the red food coloring since I used the very red water the cherries had been soaking in.
As you can see, the Clear Jel did not want to combine with the water well, and I should have known better! I know that cornstarch should be mixed with a small amount of liquid first then added as a thick liquid, but I didn’t do that. So instead, I fought with it, smashed it against the side of the pan with my wooden spoon, etc, until it was all dissolved.
The warmer and thicker the mixture became, the more the Clear Jel melted in, so all was well.
Lastly, I added in the lemon juice and boiled for another minute, and then folded the drained cherries into the thickened mixture. I then followed the directions from Utah University for processing the pie filling and all was successful! I won’t tell you how to do it here, but will tell you this was way easier than I thought and now I wish I hadn’t put it off for so long! Can’t wait to can some more stuff as fall approaches. :)
Below is the recipe for cherry pie filling, please download the PDF for processing instructions.
I will be sharing with you my cherry version of the blackberry pie squares that were such a big hit around here. That post will come in the next day or so, stay tuned! :)
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