Saturday, August 10, 2013

Evans Cherries

It is sour cherry season and a friend hooked me up with his neighbour who had far more Evans cherries than she wanted. Jess and I went over on Thursday and picked the bush clean.

The cherries were lovely and ripe and we managed to get about 20 litres in 45 minutes. I wonder if I can graft some Evans branches onto my ornamental cherry in the back?

The obvious end product for sour cherries is pie filing. Most of the filling recipes online require Cleargel (basically modified cornstarch) which I couldn't lay hands on locally (although my search was not exhaustive). The few recipes without Cleargel are a real mishmash of volumetric and weight measures (sometimes mixing imperial and metric) with oddball input and output quantities.

After some experimentation (five batches!), here is a rough and ready recipe using cup measures (250ml) and quantities your average home canner will have and can process at one time. Start with 16 cups (basically a 4-litre ice cream pail). Fill the pail about half full of water and add in a squirt of lemon juice. Pit the cherries and drop the flesh in the pail (lemon juice will prevent browning). Refrigerate until ready to can but use within a few days.

Drain three cups of the liquid from the pall and combine with 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 5 cups of sugar. Heat this combination (in a pan able to accommodate 16 cups of liquid) until the sugar/juice/water begins to thicken after boiling (maybe 15 minutes). While heating, drain the cherries.

When the liquid has thickened, add the cherries and boil between 60 and 90 minutes (stirring occasionally--now is a good time for a glass of wine or to pit the next batch of cherries). The cherry mixture will eventually turn dark and start to gel (although it will never gel quite as nicely as jam). When ready, can and waterbath for about 30 minutes (we're at 2300 feet, adjust to your own elevation). This recipe makes 8 cups of pie filling.

The filling is a bit tart but has good body. If things are too liquid, then add cornstarch or tapioca pearls prior to baking (425 for 15 minutes then 350 for 25-30 minutes).

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