Thanks to our friends at the Washington State Fruit Commission, we’ve got cherries on the brain — and on the stove, and in jars. For the second year in a row, we’ve been gifted with Bing cherries like nobody’s business. In celebration, we’ll be dishing up the myriad ways you can preserve cherries all week long. Washington state is cherry country, and this year’s crop of Bings is bodacious, as CAA member Brook Hurst Stephens describes them, below.
At our most recent Canning Across America meeting, we were greeted by the news that Northwest Cherries had dropped off some Bing cherries for us to can. As preservers, we enjoy spending time in the kitchen and most of us like to try out new recipes too. I think I can speak for everyone at the meeting when I say we were all grateful for a few pounds of fresh-picked fruit to experiment with. One small detail: I’m pretty darn sure I was the only person in the room who happens to be the daughter of a cherry orchardist. My dad grows Rainiers, Chelans, and Bings in the Wenatchee Valley. Sad but true, due to Dad’s busy schedule and mine — plus being separated by 150 miles — I haven’t seen even a single cherry from his crop this year.
I grew up picking cherries, sorting cherries, having tee shirt-staining cherry wars in the orchards with my brothers and of course, eating plenty of fresh-picked cherries. None of my previous cherry experience really prepared me for what I was about to behold. First let me tell you that I’d heard rumors that this has been a stellar year for cherries. If the big bodacious Bings we were given at the CAA meeting are any indication of this year’s crop, the rumors are 100 percent. true.
Over the past 25 years I’ve made lots of recipes with fresh cherries: jam, chutney, jelly, brandied and even pickled cherries. These Bing cherries were speaking to me from the moment we met. They were saying “Don’t mess with us….we’re perfect just the way we are.” So I took them home and did my best to keep them in their purest form while still preserving them.
What I came up with is my version of a Classic Cherry Compote. This recipe is simple and quick. The cherries are first stemmed, then washed and packed into jars with the pits still intact. Next fill the jars with a hot syrup made from sugar and water, top with sealing lids & ring bands and process.
These Bing cherries preserved in delectable ruby-red syrup are as satisfying to eat as they are spectacular to look at. I now have several jars of Bling — I mean “Bing” Cherry Compote in my pantry, and I have a feeling they’ll be dazzling my table on more than a few drab winter days. My only concern? I just hope I made enough to last until cherry season 2012.