Cherry Almond Pie Filling + Canning Instructions

For the past few months my mother and I have been worried about our yearly cherry harvest. We had an unusually warm winter which caused our lone tree to bloom several weeks early. There was a real risk that the last frost would damage the buds, leaving us with next to nothing worth harvesting. The few years we've gone without cherries have been absolutely heartbreaking, especially once winter rolls around and the realization sets in that there will be no cherry pies, cobblers, or syrup to get us through the cold weather.

Those winters are indeed bleak.

The good news is that the weather continued to stay warm, but that meant I ended up with a series of frantic text messages, complete with photos, letting me know that if I wanted cherries this year I'd have to make the drive back home a few weeks early. With my little man still in school this posed a bit of a problem, but we made a late night trip down just in time to pick as much as we could before the birds ate the rest.

We walked away with nearly 10 gallons of sour cherries, or about half of the usual harvest, since it managed to rain all weekend, making the ground too soft for a ladder. Believe me, I tried and subsequently gave up once I started listing dangerously to one side. I have a habit of breaking things (arms, legs, ankles and what not) any time I'm left unsupervised, so I wisely gave up and cursed the fact that I'll always be vertically challenged.

I have high hopes that my little guy will one day be taller than I am or at least able to shimmy up the tree and pick some of the higher branches. I'm counting down the days....

But I shouldn't complain since the harvest left me busy the following week turning piles of cherries into nearly twelve pints of cherry almond preserves and pie filling. I even had enough leftover filling for a small batch of cherry crumble with almond cardamom topping. Life is good and so is this pie filling, so if you stumble across sour cherries at the farmers' market make sure to put some up for later, you won't regret the decision at all.

Cherry Almond Pie Filling | Not Starving Yet

Cherry Almond Pie Filling


makes 2 pints or 1 quart


Ingredients

3⅓ cups cups fresh sour cherries, pits removed (see notes)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup ClearJel (regular, not instant)
1⅓ cup cold water
1½ teaspoons pure almond extract
4 teaspoons bottled lemon juice

Directions

  • Set a large pot of water to boil. Once the cherries have been pitted and measured add them to the boiling water. Boil for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil, then drain and keep in a covered dish.
  • In a large pot combine sugar, ClearJel, water, and almond extract. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice, continue to boil for an additional minute, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat, gently fold in the cherries, then immediately transfer to sterilized pint or quart jars making sure to leave a full inch of headspace.
  • Process in a water bath for 30 minutes (0 - 1,000 ft),  35 minutes (1,001 - 3,000 ft), 40 minutes (3,001 - 6,000 ft) or 45 minutes (if above 6,000 ft). The time is the same for both pints and quarts. 

Notes

When measuring your cherries make sure you have 3⅓ cups after the pits have been removed otherwise you won't have enough cherries to fill the jars.

Not sure where to find ClearJel? I've never seen it sold at our local stores, so I buy a from Amazon and have it shipped to me. My preferred brand comes from SB Canning, which isn't available at the moment, so my second choice would be from Hoosier Hill Farm

ClearJel expands quite a bit during processing, so make sure you leave a full inch of headspace when filling your jars. Anything less and you run the risk of your lid popping while it's in the water bath (if you're using Weck jars) or compromising your seal (if using Ball/Kerr jars.)

The original recipe I'm working from calls for ¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon of ClearJel. I usually split this into two pint jars and find that I always have extra Jel left over so I've slightly adapted the recipe above.

Disclosure


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Top 10 Recipes of 2015

After the hustle and bustle of November and December I prefer to end the year on a quiet note with my friends and family, so the day after Christmas we packed up the car and headed to St. Louis for some much needed R&R. The sky was cloudy and gray when we left Wisconsin, but we ran into heavy rain along the way—it didn't stop for two days. Some portions of the city saw as much as twelve inches of rain fall during that time, which quickly brought the four rivers in St. Louis to flood stage and closed many of the local highways. Travel throughout certain portions of the city was impossible as the major highways shut down one-by-one.

Living along the river we're no stranger to flooding, it's something we live with year after year, but it's been over 20 years since we've had a flood of this calibre and we've never had one so late in the year. Over the past few days residents and non-residents alike have come together to help sandbag in hopes of saving homes, businesses, and historic landmarks throughout the area. The rain has finally stopped and we're spending the start of 2016 waiting for the river to crest (reach it's highest point) before the waters slowly start to recede. We're only one day in to the new year and we're already off to a rough start.

Despite the rain keeping spirits low, there have been some high points this past week. I've managed to catch up with friends I rarely see, found out the world really is a much smaller place than I ever imagined, and learned that our extended family will be increasing yet again in 2016. I'm excited to have another baby in the family to spoil rotten! By tomorrow I'll be heading home and it will be business as usual around here. My vacation is officially over, but before I start planning for the new year I thought I'd take a look back at what was most successful in 2015. So without further ado, here are my top 10 recipes from 2015. I hope you enjoy them!

Top 10 Recipes of 2015 | Not Starving Yet

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

My little brother is getting married today and by 5:30pm I'll finally have the sister that I always wanted. When I was younger I always dreamed of having someone to share clothes with and whisper secrets to in the dark when I was supposed to be in bed. Unfortunately my sister-in-law and I are no where near the same size and a tad to old for sharing secrets, but even so, I'm glad to finally have a sister and she's marrying a wonderful man.

Then again, I may be a little biased since this is my only brother, but let's just forget about that.

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I moved to Wisconsin the day after my own wedding. It was a hard adjustment to make because I missed my family, friends, and former colleagues, but I also missed the food. There are some things, like Provel cheese, St. Louis style pizza, and toasted ravioli that you can only find in St. Louis. While I still find myself frequently missing my friends and family, at least for this week I can enjoy the food. I've managed to hit all my old haunts while I've been in town, we certainly have some hidden gems spread around this city.

Since I'm in St. Louis for the week celebrating such a momentous occasion in my brother's life I wanted to share a special recipe with you. It's one that never fails to remind me of home. Gooey Butter Cake is one of the many culinary delights that St. Louis has to offer and it's a cake like no other you'll have tried before. Up until recently you'd only be able to find in the St. Louis area, although thanks to the New York Times food section it has gained quite a following across the country in the last few years. I was thoroughly impressed when they published a recipe for it back in 2009, even if was quite different than the recipe I grew up with.

It's truly amazing that one of my favorite treats is slowly sweeping the nation. The great thing is that whether you're looking for something sinfully delicious for breakfast or something a little bit different to bring to a back yard barbecue this cake fits the bill. It always manages to be both a conversation starter and stopper. People often agree that it's just sinful enough to send you straight to hell, but it also manages to be a small slice of heaven in disguise. This cake manages to make quite an impression on everyone who tries it, so make sure you try it out so you can see what all the fuss is about. I promise you won't regret it.

GooeyButterCake.jpg

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
makes 9 servings 

Ingredients:

For the crust

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
⅓ cup butter
For the filling
1¼ cups sugar
¾ cup salted butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
powdered sugar (for dusting) 

Directions:

For the crust

  • In a bowl combine four, sugar, and room temperature butter. Use a fork or pastry cutter to combine until fine crumbs form.
  • Grease a 9x9 baking pan with butter, add the crust mixture, then pat firmly into the bottom of the pan.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F

For the filling

  • In a mixing bowl combine room temperature butter, sugar, and egg and stir until light and fluffy.
  • Add one third of the flour, mix well, then add one third of the evaporated milk and mix again. Continue alternating between dry and wet ingredients until the full amounts have been added and all ingredients are well combined.
  • Add light corn syrup and pure vanilla extract to the mixture, then stir until well incorporated.
  • Slowly pour batter into baking pan, use a spatula to ensure the mixture is spread evenly on top of the crust.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 - 40 minutes. 
  • Allow cake to cool before cutting, top with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Notes:

If you want your butter cake a little more gooey pull the cake out after 30 minutes, if you prefer your cake a little more firm then bake it for the full 40 minutes. I normally opt for something in the middle and pull the cake once the center has firmed up. I do not recommend baking for longer than 40 minutes because the crust starts to darken which ruins the light flavor this cake is known for.

St. Louis residents traditionally serve this cake for breakfast with a cup of coffee, but it makes a great snack or dessert too.

Inspiration:

Saint Louis Days Saint Louis Nights: A Culinary Tour of the Gateway City. St. Louis, MO: Junior League, 1994. p43. Print.