Preserving the Season's Bounty: Cherries

As I mentioned in my first U-Pick post we were planning to go cherry picking for the first time this season. As you can see from the pictures below, we did! :)

Let me tell you how much I (didn't) know about cherries before last week. First, I guess I didn't realize they grew on trees (duh, isn't there a story about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree?!?) When we went strawberry picking last week I happened to notice the cherry trees and thought, "Huh, so that's what they look like." :) 

Secondly, I really didn't know what you could do with cherries besides eat them (or make a pie, but I'm not really a pie girl).

Originally, my friend and I loaded up all the kids to go strawberry picking one more time. BUT, oops...! They were all gone. However, the cherries were ready so we picked those instead (which, by the way, is MUCH easier to pick than strawberries if you have 3 little ones tagging along behind you!) And...we had so much fun! It was once again, a great day U-picking (if you remember from my last U-Pick post, we like to choose a place that does not spray their berries. If you want to find a local organic U-Pick farm in your area go here.).

My friend and her baby. Isn't he precious? Love him!
She is a treasured friend as well!

Cherries are super easy to pick with little ones because the branches hang way down so even my three year old could pick her share. My six year old actually had his own bag and went to town picking. He's so great!

Carlee is DEFINITELY my cherry girl. She ate sooo many while I was working on freezing them.
I'm surprised (but thankful) she didn't get a tummy ache that night!

One of the things I did with our first batch of cherries was to freeze them. I do not yet own a cherry pitter (although I think this one would be fun for the kids so they could help me too!) so I pitted them with a Pampered Chef Paring Knife (yep, that took some time...). I then laid them on my Pampered Chef Stoneware and put the stone in my deep freezer. After they were all individually frozen I popped then in a large ziploc bag and put them back in the freezer.      

Of course, we also ate a lot of fresh cherries, but I also used some more to make cherry preserve! Yum! I had actually never made jam before. My husband is always the one who does it, but I wanted to give it a try this time.

Caleb was eating the cut cherries about as fast I could cut them even
though I was pitting them for my preserve. He was so cute to "work" with. :)

For my preserve, I used the "recipe" from here. This recipe is kind of vague, but it works. For my first batch I used 3 cups pitted cherries and 2 2/3 c. sugar (although I think next time I would use only about 2 cups of sugar). At first I didn't think the preserves really "set" that well but after leaving it in the fridge for a couple days I think it's actually the right consistency now.

Adam went picking one more time for us and picked some cherries for canning. The next day I went to my friend Rachel's house to learn how to can cherries. Thankfully, she did have a couple cherry pitters so that made that part go much more quickly!

Prior to this past Saturday I had never done canning before and I was really excited for my first lesson! All in all, canning is actually pretty easy. You just have to follow the directions. :) I hope to build up a few canning supplies so that this can become a yearly practice for me. (Come August she's going to show the Mom's Group at our church how to do peaches-can't wait!)

Canned cherries are a really nice treat. You can just eat them right out of the jar as a fruit side dish or I bet you could put them on ice cream or some other dessert. Regardless, I'm going to be so happy to pull out my jars of cherries this winter. (Although I hope they make it until then! I didn't make nearly as many as my friend. She did about 35 quarts!) 

Here are a few more pictures that I couldn't resist adding from our day cherry picking.

My little farm boy. I am in LOVE with him!
I thought his daddy would like these pictures since
his desire is to have a small farm of our own someday.
We're praying towards that end!

Well, that concludes U-Pick post #2. Coming next month are peaches and blueberries!  If you have any great cherry recipes, please send them my way. I'd love to try them out for next year's picking season.

Update: I've found the cutest canning jar labels. :) Check them out here.


Tattin' Kat said...

Looks like fun. I canned potatoes with a friend this past weekend.


wow, that's awesome that you canned them! i looove cherries!!

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