Colorado Cherry Preserves
Ryan Hardy, Little Nell, Apsen, Colorado
Hardy makes his fruit preserves more like a compote than a jam, with the cherries intact instead of broken down. The trick, he says, is achieving the right balance of sugar to acid, which depends upon the sweetness of the cherries. Hardy advises reducing the amount of added sugar by 10 percent if the fruit is very sweet, or cutting back on the lemon juice for fruit that is a little bit tart. He likes to serve these preserves with his cheese plates, especially with rich sheep's milk cheese.
MAKES 1 1/2 QUARTS
4 pounds fresh cherries, pitted and stemmed
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 lemons, juiced
2-4 tablespoons apple pectin powder*
3 pint-size canning jars, with lids
Combine the cherries and 4 cups sugar in a large, heavy bottomed pot large enough to hold double the volume. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the cherries release their liquid and begin to foam across the top of the pot. Skim off the foam to maintain clarity, and simmer for 20 minutes more or until all of the cherries soften. Add the juice of two lemons, and taste to see if the flavors are balanced. Add more lemon juice, if necessary.
In a separate bowl, combine two tablespoons of the apple pectin with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar to prevent the pectin from seizing up when added to the preserves. Ladle in 1/4 cup of the liquid in the cherry mixture and whisk to form a slurry. Return the slurry to the preserve pot; repeat if necessary to achieve a slightly thickened, syrupy consistency. Note that the preserves will thicken more as they cool.
Ladle the preserves into sterilized jars and seal the lids. Heat the jars in boiling water for 20 minutes to seal the preserves for room-temperature storage. You can skip this step and store non-canned preserves in the refrigerator for up to a week. * Apple pectin powder is available at most drugstores and pharmacies.
CHEATS: At many farmersí markets, find pitted, sliced, or frozen fruit already packaged by the farmer, who offers it as a means of using up surplus harvest before it spoils. If you don't have time to prep your own fruit, this is an easy way to stock your freezer prior to making preserves or jam.
DO-AHEAD: Because thawed fruit will lose water and volume, measure it before freezing and make a note of the quantity on the storage container. Thaw fruit in the refrigerator.