It’s cherry season at my house. This week I picked my first bowl of cherries, under supervision of Lilah. Alas, there were no squirrels.
Some years ago we planted a plum tree, a Montmorency cherry, and a dwarf cherry tree. They grew along with our children, and every summer we enjoyed the bounty: 2 or 3 fresh cherry pies, 10-12 frozen pints, a couple dozen jars of jelly, and fresh plums in lunch boxes every day, most of September. There were even enough cherries to share with neighbors, the squirrels, the magpies, and the bears (although the bears preferred the plums).
All this came to a fever pitch one summer when one of my daughters asked me to make cherry jelly as favors for her wedding.
I made 150 small jars that time. In the process, I spilled so much boiling water that I ended up destroying one of the burners on my stove. Oh well. New stove = new kitchen remodel (another story).
Now we have fewer cherries to deal with, thanks to a couple of nasty weather years recently, and honestly, I’m grateful. I have to get them before the squirrels do, and hopefully next week there will be enough cherries left to make jelly. Making jelly, instead of jam, is the easiest way to deal with cherries because I don’t have to pit them.
Here’s how I do it:
- Pick enough cherries to fill a large mixing bowl.
- Wash the cherries, strain into spaghetti pot, add ½ cup water, bring to boil, cover & simmer 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the jelly jars, lids, and rings by boiling them 10 minutes, then remove to a towel. The jars will need to be hot at the time of filling, in order to seal, so it’s all about timing.
- Line a large bowl with 3 layers of cheesecloth, making sure the ends extend far enough to twist over the cherries, squeezing juice. Add a little water, if necessary, to make 5 cups of juice.
- Stir in 1 box of pectin to the juice and bring to a full, roiling boil on high, stirring constantly.
- Stir in exactly 4 cups of sugar, return to full boil, and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat, skim off foam.
- Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling up to ¼ inch from top, wipe off rims, add lids & rings & twist them securely.
- As the jars cool, their lids seal with a pop, and then I tighten the rings a little more.
- Any that don’t seal have to go in the refrigerator and be used first—enjoy!