I’m so jazzed! I got to bottle pie cherries this year! Last year, the birds ate every cherry on the tree before I got a chance at them. This year, I did some research to find out what I could do to win the pie cherry war. I settled on setting up a solar garden owl I found on Amazon.com in my garden. The owl worked so well that I didn’t see any small birds in our yard the whole time he was posted by the tree. I could hear them singing in the neighbors trees, but they left my cherry tree alone.
I love that owl!
A few years ago, I made some promises to show my readers how I bottle fruit. So here you go…
Bottling Pie Cherries
First, you need to pick over your pie cherries to remove the pits and clean them up. (That’s what my mom always called it.) The easiest way to do this is to put them in the left-side of your double-kitchen sink (assuming that you are right-handed). Then add water. The “guck” will float to the top. It feels disgusting. My mom always made me do this part because I was her canning minion.
Now, hold a bunch of cherries in your left hand and use your right hand to pull the pits out. As you clean them up, put them in a bowl. Most of the time you need to dip them in the water again before you can put them in the bowl because that guck loves to stick to everything. Ick.
(At this point, I’ll bet you are simply dying to run out and get some pie cherries so that you can feel the guck yourself.)
Don’t worry… it gets better. This is the most unfortunate part of the process. Listen to your iPod while you do it.
Then assemble your bottling supplies. I am assuming you have them in the house. If you don’t have any, you probably should have purchased them before you started this madness.
- Clean bottles. I use quarts because a quart is just enough fruit to make a pie or a cobbler.
- Water bath canner (or a steam canner)
Now, stuff the cherries into the bottles. You read that right; stuff them in there. Tight. You want them squished in there so there is as little air as possible. I was careless this time and so two of my bottles of cherries didn’t end up with enough juice. If I don’t use the bottles fast, the fruit will go dark. But since I only got four quarts out of this batch and I have already used one of them, no problem.
Now make the syrup. It’s easy to do. I always make a light syrup because I can always add more sugar when I am making the pie or cobbler filling, but I can’t take it out if it is too sweet.
To make a light syrup, put 2 cups sugar to 4 cups water in a pan. As you cook it, the sugar will dissolve. My mom always taught me to cook it a little bit longer so that the liquid kind of hesitates a tiny bit before it drips off the spoon when you test it.
How much syrup will you need?
Depends. It depends on how much fruit you have to put up. I had left over syrup this time, but I just stuck it in the refrigerator and will use it when I bottle something else.
Now pour the syrup into the bottles via the funnel until the liquid is about half-way up the rim. Here is one of the bottles that didn’t have quite enough liquid in it. I could have added about 1/4 inch more. See that? Of course, I made sure to mess up so that I could show you a photo of the point where I messed up.
After you pour the liquid into the bottle, wipe the top of the bottle rim off. It needs to be clean so that the lids will seal properly.
While all of that is going on, steam your lids in a little bit of water. This softens up the rubber and increases the odds that the bottles will seal tight during processing.
Put the filled bottles in a water bath canner, cover them with water and bring to a boil. Once the water in the water bath canner starts to boil, you start timing. It takes 30 minutes to process most fruit.
You can also use a steam canner – which is what I personally do. As I’ve researched them, I have found that a lot of people don’t like them. Some people claim that they aren’t safe to use because the food doesn’t get hot enough. But what I’ve experienced over the years is exactly the opposite. (I’ve been using them for 36 years now.) Because steam is so hot, the contents in the bottles quickly start to boil and continue to boil the entire time I am processing them. I can’t imagine how they could get hotter than that. The thing you need to be aware of is that you must start timing the processing when the steam starts to shoot out the sides of the steamer.
Once the bottles of pie cherries have been processed, put them on the counter to cool. As they cool, the lids will seal with a pop. (It’s a fun sound to hear.) Once they are thoroughly cooled, thump the lid with your finger nail. If the lids have sealed, you’ll hear a high-pitched tinny sound. You won’t be able to push on the lid because it is tight. If they didn’t seal, you will hear a low, popping thump and if you push on the middle of the lid, it will click.
If the lids don’t seal, you can either put fresh lids on them and reseal them or you can do what I do: cook something using the fruit right away. Make sure you refrigerate them if they are unsealed!
I made a yummy cherry cobbler with my bottled pie cherries!
To make the cherry filling:
- 1 quart pie cherries
- Sugar to taste
- Corn starch
- Almond flavoring
- Put the pie cherries and juice in a sauce pan.
- Bring to boil.
- Add enough sugar to taste. I like my filling a little snappy – not overly sweet.
- Stir a couple of tablespoon of corn starch in a little cup with just enough cold water to get it to dissolve into a liquid.
- While stirring, gradually pour the cornstarch/water mix into the boiling cherries.
- Stop adding cornstarch once the mixture thickens.
- Add about 1/2 teaspoon of album flavoring. (The almond flavoring ingredient that will make your cherry filling super yummy!)
This filling works perfectly as filling for cobbler or pie. You can also spoon it over vanilla ice cream!
Have fun bottling pie cherries.
(If you don’t have a pie cherry tree, plant one this fall. Once your tree starts to bear fruit, you’ll be so glad you did!)