Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anyone Can Pickle! Cherries, Sweet, Spicy and Fast!!

      I've always been interested in pickles, preserving and canning. I guess it's my inner squirrel speaking. The little squeaky voice in my head in the middle of summer that says "save all those wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables you see now, its going to be a long cold winter".
      I love looking into my larder when the rain is pounding on the skylights and the winter creek is gurgling under the driveway and seeing all my bottles and jars on the shelves glittering with the warmth of summer colors.
    Yeah, I know, I can get get all this stuff almost any time of the year. Through the magic of shipping there are grapes from Chile in mid-December, and strawberries in January, but I'm trying to keep it local. Why not, since I happen to be lucky enough to live in the heart of Californias' Wine Country.
     Therefore, every summer I get what I can and can it. Because I can can.
      I'd been putting off doing cherries so far this year. First of all because my friend Laura (Maeves' mom) was going to give me cherries from their trees. But we had a long and wet winter this year and by the time the cherries came, they were rotting and not good for canning. Then when they did appear at the Farmers Market, they were too expensive for my taste. Half the fun of preserving is getting the fruit ripe, local and cheap and then saving it for later.
 So I bided my time.
    Finally, the day came. In fact it came a couple of days ago. The price of cherries dropped, and I pounced. It was time to pickle.
     Every summer I make two types of pickled cherries. One is spicy and sweet and one is more tart and savory. Both go well with any sort of pork or poultry. They even do well on the Indian table.
     Both are easy to fix and the main labor involves sterilizing the jars. I'll give you the recipes for both so you can decide which variety to make.
     If these cherry recipes don't suit, there are a lot of them out there online. My two are adaptations of a few that appealed to me.


Sweet and Spicy Pickled Cherries

    Wash and dry about 1 lb of cherries. Do NOT pit them.
 Cut their stems down to about a 1/2 inch.
  Stick them each a few times with a sterilized needle and set them aside.
    In a large pot or pan, heat 3/4 cup of water,
    3/4 cup of sugar either white or brown
    3/4 cup of white vinegar
     This is your pickling brine. Keep it hot while your jars sterilize.
   When the jars are ready take them out of the hot water bath and drop in:
   2 peeled thin slices of ginger root
  6 peppercorns
   2 cloves
 1 small cinnamon stick
 Add the cherries and then pour the hot brine over the whole thing and put the lids on the jars.
   If you want to keep these in the fridge, this is all you need to do. Let the jars cool and then put them in. However you must wait and let them mellow for 1 month before using them.
   I have done it this way, and I've also processed them in a canning bath so I don't have to keep them refrigerated. If you are using 1/2 pint jars, process them for 10 minutes.
   I usually make these cherries in pint jars so all ingredients are doubled, including the processing time.
     Tart And Savory Cherries
   These are a bit more "pickely". Here's how to make them.
 Wash and dry 1 lb of cherries .
Trim the stems down to 1/2 inch. Do NOT pit them.
   In a large pot or pan mix:
 2 cups of water
 1 cup of cider vinegar
 1/2 cup of brown sugar
 2 Tbs of kosher (pickling) salt
     Bring your pickling liquid to a boil. When it's nice and hot, take the jars out of their sterilizing bath and pack the cherries into the jars . Pour the hot liquid over them, seal the jars and process them for 10 minutes.
   This is for 1/2 pint jars, double everything including processing time for pint jars. There is no waiting period for enjoying this sort of cherry.
     After a weekend off, we were back at work writing all day yesterday, and so I got very ambitious as you can see. I even baked some bread.
     If anyone were to offer me a ride in a time machine, I think I'd rather go back into the past than rocket into the future. In the dead of winter, these wonderful pickled rubies are as close to a time machine as one can get.


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