Another in a series in which I comment on M.F.K. Fisher’s 1986 annotations of Catherine Plagemann’s 1967 Fine Preserving, layering past and present, research, experimentation and outright opinion. This project is a blast.
This was last year’s prize sweet cherry discovery and I’m surprised that M.F.K. Fisher didn’t pick up on it when she annotated Ms. Plagemann’s delightful volume. Taking the author’s advice, I waited several months before cracking open a jar, so of course it would be a whole year before I could make it again and would want to write about it. Every time I serve the cherries, my husband comments on how exceptionally good they are. And he’s right.
Strong and syrupy, the cherries have a lingering taste from the addition of cider vinegar and the spices – cinnamon, allspice and cloves. The most interesting characteristic is the plumpness of the whole cherries after they’re canned. It’s partly because I used large sweet cherries and partly because the ridiculous amount of sugar, coupled with the cherry juice and vinegar, produces a gel in 5-10 minutes, if that. Therefore they don’t get overcooked.
Plagemann thought of this as jam, but it’s a little loose for that. We spooned it over ice cream and sorbet and served it with crepes and pancakes. I bet the cherries would make a swell topping for a custard tartlet. I’ll let you know next year.
Spiced Cherries adapted from Catherine Plagemann, Fine Preserving
2 lbs sweet dark red cherries (5-6 c pitted)
4 c granulated cane sugar
1 c cider vinegar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
Prepare 6-7 eight-ounce jars for canning. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel.
Wash and pit the cherries, leaving them as whole as possible.
Place the remaining ingredients in a large wide saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cherries and stir. Cook the cherries at a medium boil until the liquid tests for gel, about 5-7 minutes.
Divide the cherries among the prepared canning jars and pour in the liquid. (I made 2 jars of just syrup.) Carefully insert a spoon handle or similar object in the jars to release any air bubbles without breaking the cherries. Process the jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to a counter to cool undisturbed.
Makes approximately 5-6 eight-ounce jars.