Cherry Almond Preserves with No Added Pectin

Cherry season is incredibly short—lasting only a matter of days—so I'll often find myself with gallon bags full of sour pie cherries that need to be pitted, washed, and processed in a short amount of time. Some years it can be a daunting task to turn all of these beauties into something delicious, so I've worked hard to develop a lazy person's recipe for preserves that has a great consistency, yet doesn't need any special equipment or added pectin. Just a small handful of ingredients and a little bit of time is all you need to produce a tasty preserve that can be put up and enjoyed over winter or eaten immediately on a slice of crusty bread slathered in butter. 

Cherry Almond Preserves with No Added Pectin | Not Starving Yet

Cherry Almond Preserves

(makes 1 pint or 2 half pints)
 


 

Ingredients


3 cups sour cherries (or slightly less than 1 pound)
1 cup sugar + additional ¼ - ½ cup, as necessary
1 Tablespoon pure almond extract
 

Directions

  • Remove the pits from the cherries, add them to a large saucepan, and combine with 1 cup sugar. Let sit for at least twenty minutes while the cherries macerate, or release their juices.
  • Over medium-high heat bring the contents of the pot to a boil and allow to cook until the mixture has reduced roughly by ⅓. Take a quick taste and if the preserves still make you pucker add an additional ¼ cup of sugar, or more to taste.

You can leave a wooden spoon in your pot or pan while your preserves are cooking to prevent them from boiling over.

  • Add almond extract, then continue to boil the preserves taking care to stir frequently, until the contents of the pot have begun to thicken. 

Total cooking time varies greatly depending on the size of you pot (anywhere from 20 - 45 minutes) so you'll need to keep a close eye on your preserves while they're cooking.

  • There are a number of methods you can use to tell when your preserves are done cooking. By far the easiest is to take a spoon, dip it in the preserves, and let the liquid run off the spoon. If it immediately drips back in to the pot, you need to keep cooking, but if it puddles at the tip and drips off in a heavy sheet, your safe to turn the heat off. If you're still not quite sure they're done, you can remove your preserves from the heat, place a small amount of syrup on a plate and put it in the fridge to chill. It should form a gel after a few minutes, if it doesn't turn the heat back up and continue boiling your preserves.

It is possible to burn your preserves, so if you're still uncertain after performing these two tests, go ahead and turn off the heat. If your preserves fail to gel after cooling you can always use them on top of a fat stack of pancakes.

  • Allow the preserves to cool slightly before transferring them into a pint jar. Wipe the rim clean, seal, and once cool store in the refrigerator.

Notes


You can use a cherry pitter if you have one, but for small batches of cherries a paperclip, chopstick, or even your hands work just as well. Keep in mind that pitting cherries is a messy process, so wear something dark colored or a shirt you don't mind getting stained.

It's perfectly normal for the preserves to foam while boiling, once they're removed from the heat you'll find the foam dissipates relatively quickly, so there is no need to skim it off the top.

This recipe is safe to can using a water bath, but for such a small batch I don't normally bother. If you'd like to make more than a pint and put some up for later you can use the canning instructions I've included with our recipe for Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves.

Small Batch Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves + Canning Instructions

I just got back from spending a week with my family, but it wasn't until we were half way back to Missouri that I realized that I had screwed up. I didn't stop by my favorite produce stand to pick up my summer supply of peaches. That meant going an entire year without any because, while Wisconsin produces a lot of great things, peaches just aren't one of them. Those hard as a rock things they sell in the grocery store (you know the ones I'm talking about, don't you?) The ones that never seem to soften up and don't even smell like peaches. Those are not peaches, at least, not the kind I grew up with.

Real peaches are the ones so filled up with juice they burst the second your teeth pierce the flesh, leaving you with a trail of juice running down your chin. Those are the peaches I grew up with, but sadly those are not the peaches I find these days. They seem to be a thing of the past.

I've always felt that it's not officially summer until I've had my first peach, so I spent the drive back to Wisconsin completely dejected. Summer was officially over before it ever really got started. There would be no peach pies, crisps, or cobblers in my future. No jellies, butters, or preserves to get me through the long cold Wisconsin winter.

Summer was dead to me.

Well, at least until I went to the grocery store hungry (something I keep telling myself I shouldn't do, but at least it worked in my favor this time.) I was wandering through the produce section looking for dinner ingredients when I stumbled across case on top of case of canning peaches. I'm ashamed now to admit I walked right on by them (didn't I mention the fact that we don't get good peaches in Wisconsin?)

Then it hit me— I smelled peaches!

I immediately turned the cart around (practically gunning down little old ladies right and left in my effort to get there fast enough) and I picked up a case of some of the best smelling peaching I've seen in years. Then three days later I went back for more, because lets be honest, you can never have too many peaches.

I'm going to give you fair warning, you're about to be inundated with peach recipes, starting with these glorious sweet cherry and peach preserves that I saw on Food in Jars

Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves

Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves
makes 3 half pints

Ingredients

1½ pounds yellow peaches
¾ pounds sweet cherries (see notes)
1¼ cups granulated white sugar 

Directions

  • Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil. Working in small batches, blanch the peaches for 30 seconds, before transferring them to an ice bath. Once the peaches have cooled slightly the skins should easily peel off.
  • Remove the pits from the cherries. You can pull them apart with your hands, or use a chopstick to help force the pit out.
  • In a non-reactive sauce pan add sugar, peaches, and cherries. Stir well to combine, then bring the contents to a boil over high heat.

Make sure to stir the pot frequently taking care to scrape the bottom, especially during the later portion of the cooking process where the fruit tends to burn more easily.

  • While the fruit is cooking sterilize your jars and other canning supplies. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  • Allow the fruit to reduce by roughly ⅓ (this took about 30 minutes, but could take longer.) Turn the heat off once the sauce has thickened.
  • Fill sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Carefully wipe the rims, add lid and ring, then process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Once the timer goes off, leave the jars in the water for an additional 5 minutes to help prevent the preserves from siphoning.
  • Carefully remove jars and set on a dishtowel. Never set hot jars directly on the counter, the rapid temperature change can cause them to break.
  • Allow the jars to cool completely before testing the seal. Any unsealed jars should be reprocessed or refrigerated immediately.

Notes

When selecting peaches for canning I prefer the freestone variety because the flesh of the peach doesn't cling to the pit. They're a lot less work, which really makes a difference if you plan on processing a ton of peaches. For small batches, such as this recipe, clingstone peaches will work just fine.

I used sweet cherries because it's what I had on hand (thanks to my husband's grandma who gave me a huge bag while we were on vacation,) but sour cherries will work just as well.

Give this recipe your own twist! Try adding a vanilla bean, ground cardamom, ginger, or galangal.