Monday, June 6, 2011

A Recipe for Sweet Cherry Preserves

It is cherry season!  I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first cherries at the farmers markets, and finally their happy red faces have appeared.  They are juicy, sweet, and voluptuous, with smooth shiny skin and soft flesh inside.  They are just absolutely perfect.  Some of them are even so red and ripe that they are almost a deep crimson violet color.  

Here in San Diego we get the common Bing variety of cherry, but we also get neon-colored and super sweet Rainier cherries, and as well as Lapin Cherries.  I buy them all.  I love them all.  I am an equal opportunity cherry eater.  

Now last year when cherry season rolled around, I didn't quite get my act together.  I bought lots and lots of cherries, and snacked on them.  Often.  Cherries are just the ideal size for popping in your mouth one at a time, and then of course, you can't eat just one.  They are sweet enough to feel like an indulgence, but they are also really healthy - a win-win in the snack world.  

But yet, there were those pesky pits... and that was when I realized something was missing from my life.  Specifically, I didn't have a cherry pitter, and clearly everyone should own a cherry pitter.  (Am I right friends?)  Now I should have used this as a good excuse to go shopping (as though I need an excuse), but because of aforementioned lack of getting-act-together, I lagged behind and the cherry season passed me by.     

But not this year.  This season, I decided it was time.  I planned ahead so I could jump into cherry season with both feet and devour these beautiful fruits with gusto.  I took the plunge and bought myself a cherry pitter.  

I got the Oxo Cherry Pitter from Williams-Sonoma, because it came highly recommended by several readers and friends on Twitter.  And honestly, I am kicking myself that I did not get it sooner.  I love it.  It makes pitting cherries a breeze - I can easily pit 2 pounds of cherries in less than 15 minutes - and the mess is minimal.  And a bonus?  It can also pit olives!  This dual function obviously takes the cherry pitter out of the single-use kitchen gadget category and places it squarely in the Very-Useful, Must-Buy category.  (See how I capitalized those categories?  That means they are important.)  So in case you aren't catching my drift, I think you should buy a cherry pitter.  Now.      

Because if you buy it now, then you are only a few short days away from making these luscious cherry preserves, as well as a whole host of other great cherry dishes.  But I would argue that you should definitely start with these preserves. 

This recipe is for sweet cherry preserves - as opposed to the sour/tart variety - and it takes everything that makes a cherry wonderful and transforms it into spreadable form that is intensely sweet.  I like my preserves with large chunks of fruit, so some of the cherries are chopped before cooking, while others are left whole.  The whole cherries and big pieces of fruit are my favorite part - I want to make sure I have enough of them so I don't have to go hunting around to find them.

So these cherry preserves are stellar on their own, on a slice of white bread, wheat bread, french bread, or even a cute little plain scone.  It's heaven.  But naturally, I had to take it just a tiny step further and try it out with goat cheese - and not just any goat cheese, but Purple Haze from Cypress Grove Chevre, which has both lavender and fennel pollen to delicate flavor it.  And WHOA.  Especially the taste of the lavender is just an absolutely perfect complement to the sweet cherries - I think I couldn't have made a better match if I had tried.  (Cypress Grove also makes the incredible humboldt fog goat cheese that I love.)    

So hurry, before the cherry season passes you by, get yourself a cherry pitter and make these preserves.  You will be SO glad that you captured the sweet taste of summer and you can indulge yourself a little bit by trying this with goat cheese too.  It is also a perfect thing to share with friends or to bring for a summer picnic or party - how simple would it be to bring a jar of preserves, a disc of goat cheese, and french baguette?  Your hostess would love you even more if you had an extra jar of sweet cherry preserves stashed away for her.  Just sayin.  

Oh, and one more thing.  Make sure you have enough butter knives on hand for spreading the preserves.  Normally my knives sit in the drawer, unused, but you would be amazed at how quickly the drawer becomes empty when there is are fresh fruit preserves in the house.  Of course, then I can always resort to using a small spoon...   


Sweet Cherry Preserves
This recipe doesn't have any extra added pectin - it only uses natural pectin from the fruits.  If you want your jam to be thicker, think about adding some extra pectin to the recipe, but it wasn't necessary for my tastes.  Also, in one of the batches of preserves I made, I added a bit of amaretto and I loved the way it heightened the cherry flavor.   

4 cups washed, pitted cherries; I have the Oxo Cherry Pitter and I love it
Juice of 1 large lemon or 2 small lemons
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-2 tsp amaretto (optional)

Prepare cherries, then chop about 1/2 or 1/3 of them into rough pieces, and leave the others whole.  Add all the cherries to a medium pot along with the lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, until they start bubbling, then continue to cook while stirring occasionally for about 20-25 minutes.  Make sure you stir especially towards the end of that time so the juice on the bottom does not burn.  As they are cooking, use a spoon to smash the whole cherries to release the juice and flatten them.  (If you don't flatten them, they will stay really round and the preserves will not be very 'spreadable.')  

After the cherries are fully cooked, add the sugar, stir to mix it in and dissolve it, then continue to cook over medium-high heat for another 5-7 minutes.  (Again, be sure to stir, so the sugar and cherries don't burn.)  After cooking, the juice should have started to 'gel' a bit and thicken so that it starts to coat the back of your spoon or ladle.  Remove the preserves from heat, and test if they are done.  If the preserves are not done, return them to the heat and cook them for a few more minutes, then test them again.  When done, let the preserves cool slightly*, then transfer it to jars.  Once they are cooled, they will keep refrigerated for several months.  
*If you like, stir in some amaretto to enhance the flavor of the cherries.  


  1. Your cherry preserve looks divine! Wonderful when served with cheese and good homemade bread.



  2. Yum! Nothing like the goodness of bread, cheese, and a little fruit preserves to sweeten it up! What a neat tool! I totally want a cherry pitter!

  3. I love this post and recipe, especially the side note and adding in some amaretto. Brilliant! The cherries we get here during the season are shipped from so far or for so long that they aren't great for eating sometimes.... but maybe turning them into cherry jam would enhance/bring out their flavor!

  4. I definitely do not need ANOTHER excuse to go shopping! :) you answered my question of "would this work on olives?" so I am off to find one!!

    this looks delicious - I may have to add cherries to my shopping list after finding the pitter, and make some!

  5. You have me convinced about the cherry pitter! I am definitely adding it to my Must Buy kitchen wishlist!!!

  6. Years ago my husband figured out the way to my heart was with a cherry pitter. It's funny how that simple addition to the kitchen arsenal made a huge difference to my summer baking. (I should add it can also be used for pitting olives, so I am one happy pitter.)

  7. Cherry pitter is the reason I stay away from making a preserve from Cherries and plums. Need to find this useful kitchen tool. Love the colorful preserve.

  8. That looks so delicious, I may not be a big preserve fan, but I do love cherries! Funny, we just broke down and bought a juicer after years of trying to squeeze by tools make life SO much easier!

  9. This looks fantastic! I have been dying to try my hand at preserves and this is the recipe that will give me the push!

  10. The photographs of the cherries look delightful. The preserves seem divine and you make it seem really easy to make at home.

  11. love it. cherries are my fave so ive been wondering about preserving some that no ones touching in the fridge!! i bought some more today too, i cant stop buying them! lol lovely pics

  12. I love Rainier cherries, but haven't seen them in the markets near me yet. I'm definitely excited to see them, and would love to try making this when I do. The idea of serving these preserves on bread with goat cheese sounds just incredible!

  13. YUM! I love cherries, this looks delicious :D

  14. These preserves look so wonderful - gorgeousness.

  15. I need to get myself a cherry pitter! I love pairing fruity compotes with cheeses. When I'm in San Diego I should try some goat cheese from Cyprus Grove!

  16. This looks amazing and delicious! I love you photography. Perfect!Thanks for sharing with us.

  17. Delightful preserves...cherries are very well loved around here as well :) I almost bought that little baby last weekend, defiantly a necessity for cooking/baking with fresh cherries :)

  18. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best! And great photos!

  19. I love my cherry pitter almost as much as my husband....

  20. Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me with this recipe?!! I am so in love with this! and how on Earth did I not know that there was such a genious thing as a cherry pitter?!! That's it, I'm getting one right this minute. I must make these preserves immediately.

  21. Oh - what a great way to enjoy cherries all year long! Love it! I was actually looking into a cherry pitter too - thanks for the oxo recommendation!

  22. Spending some time in California, I've gotten to enjoy some very flavorful cherries.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe!

  23. Jan: I can tell you from experience that those less-than-perfect cherries from the supermarket can work equally well for this recipe. Cooking them down and adding sugar elevates the cherries and makes them amazing!

    Molly: YES! I cannot wait to try the pitter for olives too!

    Jessica's Dinner Party: You could try Purple Haze when you are in SD... but you should be able to buy it in lots of other cities too! You can also order from Cypress Grove Chevre online.

    And best comment ever from Erika: "I love my cherry pitter almost as much as my husband...." LOL :)

  24. Okay, okay, I'm convinced - I need a cherry pitter! But first I need to find some decent cherries because I want to make some cherry preserves.

  25. hehe hello, and why is it that i like your blog name? :)

    ive not heard of a cherry pitter until NOW! and its going into my ever growing list of kitchen gadgets to buy!

    i love the neon/yellow cherries but we don't get too much of it down here however.

  26. What a nice way to hold onto to some cherries all year around. Your cherry preserves look and sound delicious.

  27. I'm obsessed with cherries, probably due to my Russian blood. For some reason I do have (the same) cherry pitter but don't recall using it. Maybe I thought it was a must have item except the cherry season in Boston is like 3 days :) Next time I spot them at the farmers market, I'll make sure to snag some and enjoy them with some goat cheese. Sounds incredible :)

  28. oh wow, such vibrant color. Wonderful.

  29. We didn't learn how to do preserves when I was a culinary school student (I wrote about it here, if you're interested: "Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood" - on Amazon Kindle) - it is the next thing I want to teach myself. Especially if I can make something as pretty as you!

  30. Yum! I love cherries and this would be a perfect way to keep them all year long.

  31. Mmm...We are cherry eaters at our house too, but I've never tried the Lapin cherries. Where do you find them in San Diego? Believe it, or not, we do have a cherry pitter because one Christmas, my husband who almost never cooks, made a cherry tart. I think my kids would love making these cherry preserves with me!

  32. I just bookmarked this! thank you so much for this i cant wait to make some soon for father's day:)

  33. Oh, I'm so jealous of you! I won't be getting any cherries till December. I will keep your delicious recipe for when cherries are in season here. Looks delicious and so fresh!

  34. This looks so gorgeous. Although available, it's not quite the best season for cherries here in Australia, but I'll have to give this a go when cherries are at their best!

  35. Will this work with other fruits, like blueberries, blackberries or strawberries?

  36. Gosh your photos are so beautiful! Perfect summer breakfast recipe.

  37. Thanks for this sweet cherry preserves recipe. A perfect idea for this time of year. Good post.

  38. I love the looks of your bread spread with the preserves and is that goat cheese? Super yum! I have to get some cherries before they are all gone!

  39. Cherry season in my region is over faster than a hiccup. I missed it last year, but this year I'm going to be waiting for it, at the ready with my pitter.

  40. Anonymous: Though I haven't tried it, this recipe might work with other berries, but I am worried that the higher water content of especially strawberries might make it different. Also, the brown sugar works well here, but for strawberries I might use all white sugar. Give it a try and experiment, that is the fun of cooking!

  41. Stunning photos! Now this is what I want on MY toast :)

  42. Hi Amanda,
    I love cherry preserve but your pairing with the lavender goat cheese made me drool instantly. I can only imagine how good they go together.
    thanks for sharing

    you made me laugh the way you categorize your kitchen gadgets :)

  43. gotta make this! looks amazing and pretty easy!

  44. This looks amazing! Could I boil the jars after filling them with the preserves to make them last longer (outside of the fridge)? These would make great Christmas gifts. :)

  45. You inspired me to make this! Went and bought my cherry pitter and got one for my sis Rabbit Food Rocks too! Thanks. your pics make me drool and make me spend money too. shame on you! ;)

  46. Maryanna: That is a great idea, they would make awesome christmas gifts! You could definitely boil/can these to preserve them for longer, just make sure to do a proper job and they will last until christmas.

    Shefskitchen: so thrilled you and your sis got the cherry pitters! I am not at all ashamed for making you spend money, because I know you will love the cherry pitter and love the cherries! ;) Can't wait to see what you both make with it!

  47. Ok, you twisted my arm and made me do it. I just bought the OXO cherry pitter, and I'm so glad I did. It worked like a charm :)

    I made 2 batches of this jam, both with vanilla beans. The first batch only made slightly less than 2 pint jars, so I used 5 cups of cherries in the second batch and got a perfect 2 pints.
    Thanks for a great jam recipe that doesn't use too much sugar--love that!

    Oh, also I added 1 tablespoon of pectin to each batch. I've made jam too many times that won't set up, so I added it just in case.

  48. Love this recipe. I have been looking forward to making jams and jellies throughout the summer. I just finished a batch of Sherried Strawberry Jam, and I am waiting for raspberries, blackberries, and peaches.

    Visit me at Preserved and Pickled !

  49. I am not a big fan of red cherries but i`ll try and see if i can make some dashingly good looking blue cherry or black current preserves. I`ll share once the experiment is successful and done. really looking forward to it.

  50. I made this but with half the sugar. The jam was still very sweet, almost too sweet, but delicious.

  51. Thank you for this recipe. I'm new to your blog and, as a first timer, I really enjoyed it.
    As soon as I plant the period at the end of the sentence, I'm out to purchase my cherries.
    As I already have a cherry pitter, I know full well the value of this tool.
    I think, as another commenter said, I will halve the amount of sugar as I don't like things too sweet and also, as another commenter wrote, add a bit of pectin.
    Thanks again for the recipe, your heads up on the goat cheese, and, your very fine photos.

  52. Thanks for this! I halved the sugars, increased the lemon juice, and did the full two tsp of amaretto - it took my mother's homegrown cherries to a whole new level. :)

    Also, I love Purple Haze and Humboldt Fog, too. Not that I have really met many cheeses I DIDN'T like...

  53. These are FANTASTIC. I made a small batch Sunday morning to put on our waffles when I realized we were out of maple syrup. Then today I went out and bought 6 pounds of cherries, a canner, and a dozen jars.

    No cherry pitter, though--they were sold out. But I found a great method to pit cherries w/o one: put several on cutting board, smash with side of chef's knife (like one does w/ garlic), then pull the pits out. Pretty fast and easy!

  54. OMGosh..... I just made a small batch.... I don't think it will make it to the jars...hehehe.... and since I didn't have a cherry pitter, I used a drinking straw to push the pits out..worked well and no mess.. thank you for the recipe.... pinned it for later use.

  55. I just made this with some Rainier Cherries and it's SOOOOOO GOOD! I didn't have amaretto, so I used some almond extract. I tasted it first and it was good, but after adding the almond extract, it was DELICIOUS! The only thing that disappoints me is that I only got two half-pint jars out of it. LOL, I think I'm going to have to find some more cherries.

    Regina in Oakville, WA

  56. this recipe is so easy my son and husband love it and i think the little one on the way does too.. because mommy cant get enough!!! yummy :) thank you.

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  77. just brought home 25 # s today.. I was wondering why you are sealing the jars as you do in jelly /jam recipes. would be so nice to have them out of the frig & stored away as mom & gram have done for years..

  78. Yum. I made this (and bought the pitter) today and it's wonderful! - Marianne Z.

  79. Hmmm .... wonder if this would work as freezer cherry perserves? I do freezer jams and they are to die for because of their natural flavor. Think I will try it and try to remember to post the results here next year

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