Though fresh, sweet cherries are typically eaten raw, cooking them softens them and mellows their flavor. Cooking sour cherries with sugar sweetens them. One of the most common uses for cooked cherries is as a cherry pie filling or a cherry topping for ice cream or cake. You can eat this cherry pie filling as a topping right away, make a pie from it right away or you can preserve it by canning it using the pressure canning method. This recipe makes 1 qt., enough for an 8-inch pie.
Rinse the cherries. Pit them by cutting them in half and using the point of a paring knife to pop the pit out.
Combine sugar, canning starch and cinnamon in the large saucepan. Stir. Add the water and almond extract.
Cook over medium high heat until the mixture begins to bubble. The liquid should also be thickening at this point.
Add 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Boil the mixture for one minute. Stir constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan and burning.
Remove the saucepan from the burner. Fold in the cherries immediately. The residual heat will cook the cherries slightly. Use this pie filling immediately, refrigerate it for use in a day or two, or can it using a pressure canner.
Things You Will Need
Measuring cups and spoons
3 1/2 cups fresh sour cherries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. canning starch
1/8 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1 1/3 cups cold water or fruit juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
2 tbsp. lemon juice (split between two uses)
Canning equipment (optional)
Replacing the water with cherry juice makes for a richer pie filling.
If you must have extremely red cherry pie filling, you can add up to 6 drops of red food coloring to the water before adding it to the recipe.
If you like your ice cream sauce more runny, cut back on the canning starch.
Cherries tend to go off-color easily once cut open. To prevent this browning, as you pit them, put the cherries in a bowl of water to which 1 tbsp. of lemon juice has been added.
Because cherries are a low-acid food, they must be pressure canned instead of canned using the water-bath method.
Susan Peterson is the author of five books, including "Western Herbs for Martial Artists and Contact Athletes" and "Clare: A Novel." She holds a Ph.D. in text theory from the University of Texas at Arlington and is an avid cook and gardener.