Sweet cherries are delicious, but the season is short. Canning them is a great way to preserve them for cakes, desserts and drinks for the rest of the year.
Step 1: What You'll Need
The basic recipe is:
Step 2: Prepare the Berries
Pick or buy the desired ammount of sweet cherries. Give them a quick rinse in water and depit them. You can remove the pits using a knife or a paperclip, but i much prefer a depiting tool like the one pictured here. You can find them on ebay and they don't cost much.
Step 3: Boil the Berries in Sugar Water.
Weigh the depited cherries and put an equal ammount of water in a pot (1kg of berries = 1 liter of water). Add sugar equalling 0,4 times the weight of the berries to the water (400g of sugar for 1 kg of berries).
Boil the water and add the berries when the sugar is dissolved. Simmer the berries for 10 minutes.
Step 4: Put the Berries in Glasses.
Clean the jars you are planning on using, and sterilize them. We usually do this by filling them with boiling water and letting them sit for a while.
After this step it is a good idea to wear rubber gloves, both to protect your hands from boiling liquids and help keeping things sterile.
Fill the jars to the rim with berries and sugar water and cap them. The heat from the berries and syrup will help sterilize the jars, but it needs to be boiling hot when you cap them for this to work. The jars must be hot to minimize the risk of cracking. If done right, the berries can now be stored in a cool dark place for years. To do this successfully, you need to be quick, and you need to be careful not to touch and contaminate the inside of jars or caps. This method of preserving only works for acidic food like cherries.
A different way to preserve the berries would be to use water bath canning. This is the recommended canning procedure. The only reason I don't use it here, is that the open pot canning described above has always worked perfectly fine on my jams and canned fruits. Fill and cap warm glass jars as previously described. Put the jars in a pot of simmering water. You should use a canning rack or a thick towel to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pot. Putting the jars directly in the pot would increase the chance of jars cracking, and it could burn the contents as the bottom of the jar gets to hot. The jars should be covered by about 5 cm of water. Boil them for 10 minutes, remove the jars and leave them to cool down. Make sure you don't place the jars directly on a cold surface like a stone or metal bench top, or in a place with a cold draft. Putting them directly in the fridge is a big no no. The sharp temperature gradient between the inside and the outside of the jar could cause it to crack because of tension in the glass.
When you first add the berries to the jars, they will be floating. After a few days they will start sinking as shown on the last picture. This happens when sugar diffuses into the berries from the syrup. They are now ready to be enjoyed.
If you wish, you can add additional flavors during the boiling, like vanilla and cinnamon. This will add flvor to the berries over time. If you do this, you should leave the berries for at least a couple of weeks before eating them to let the flavors penetrate.
You are now set to enjoy your sweet cherries all winter long.