When 30 pounds of fresh cherries from Northwest Cherry Growers arrive at your doorstep, it’s hard not to begin eating them one cherry, one pound at a time. Juicy and perfectly ripe, these cherries were welcomed by my family and soon we were researching new and creative recipes for things to do with cherries so we could enjoy them now and months later as sweet preserves. One resource I enjoyed for both information, recipes, and even cute labels to print out for my preserves can be found on this Northwest Cherry Growers page.
My daughter requested homemade maraschino cherries, and since we all love those on our ice cream sundaes, she went to work making a healthy version with no sugar added. As these cherries marinated in the sweetened vodka mixture, I discovered the richly flavored vodka was perfect for a little nip every now and then, like, whenever I opened the refrigerator door!
These maraschino cherries are not the artificially bright red cherries from the grocery store but will definitely be an adult-friendly mix in with vanilla ice cream or eaten on their own.
Sugar-Free Maraschino Cherries
- 5½ cups (1.5lbs) Fresh Cherries, pitted with stems removed
- 1¾ cups Water
- 1 cup Vodka
- 1 tbs Stevia Extract
- 1 tbs Natural Cherry Flavor — We used the alcohol free brand from Frontier co-op, although with all this vodka, it didn’t make a difference.
- ½ tsp Almond Extract
Our first task was to pit all of these cherries. Rather than do this by hand, I purchased a cherry pitter that can handle 6 cherries at once. This is the one I chose. With as many cherries as we had, we needed to get through this task quickly, and this little gadget lived up to our expectations.
For more details about this particular recipe and complete instructions, click here.
Russian Pickled Cherries
Different and tasty!
- 4 cups sweet cherries I prefer dark, stems removed but pits left intact
- 2 cups raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 cardamom pods lightly crushed with the side of a knife or a heavy pan to expose the seeds
- half of a cinnamon stick
- 8 scrapes of whole nutmeg on a rasp grater or fine microplane
- 2 whole allspice berries
- Optional, but tasty, 2 t. kirsch (cherry brandy)
In our research to find different ways to use cherries, besides the preserves detailed in this article, we came across this very unusual recipe. It takes a full month or so to let the cherries pickle, so be patient. It’s worth it.
Go to Foodie With Family for complete instructions. If you make these, my hunch is that you’ll be glad you did.
Homemade Cherry Ripe Bites
- 1/2 pounds pitted, fresh cherries
- 2 T. dry-roasted strawberry powder* or 2 T. goji berries
- 3/4 c. coconut flakes
- 1 T. coconut oil, melted
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted
Once more, my creative and Google-savvy daughter tracked down another winning recipe. We still have a few of these left in the freezer, and every once in a while the cold chocolate/cherry combination is just the perfect treat.
You’ll notice that dry-roasted strawberry powder is called for in this recipe. This, apparently, is something to be found on the grocery store shelves in Australia, where this recipe originates, but fortunately, we have freeze dried strawberries, which we put in a blender for a few seconds to make our own powder. If you don’t have freeze-dried strawberries, you can dehydrate your own and then blend to powder. Either way, this is a healthy, sugar-free recipe, which also happens to be a nicely sweet treat.
Get full instructions and more details here.
Spiced Cherry Amaretto Jam
Without a doubt, this was our very favorite cherry recipe out of everything we tried. It’s from The Prepper’s Canning Guide by Daisy Luther, and that book is worth every penny. If you don’t have a copy yet, then today is the day to pick it up. It contains simple instructions for getting started with both water bath canning and pressure canning, but the real treasure you’ll find between the covers are the recipes.
Spiced Cherry Amaretto Jam calls for 4 pounds of 4 pounds of sweet cherries, sugar, amaretto, and a few spices, including cloves, that will make your tastebuds sing. We canned 8 jars of this and actually ended up making a second batch using kirsch in place of amaretto. That version was tasty, but we voted and the big winner was the amaretto version.
A few of the other recipes we’ve tried from Daisy’s book turned out just as good — Slow Cooker Plum Butter and Brown Sugar Peach Preserves with jalapenos, in particular. Daisy’s book is simple enough that my daughter picked up on canning quickly, and she is now the “Family Canning Queen.”
Brandied Cherry Jam
- 5 cups sweet or sour cherries, pitted
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, approximately 1 large lemon
- 2-3 tablespoons cherry brandy, such as Kirsch
Cherry Chocolate Muffins
There’s a funny story behind these muffins and it has to do with The Great British Baking Show. Are you familiar with this series? My family fell in love with the quirky, every day bakers, the even quirkier hosts and the 2 judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Strangely, the biggest fan of the show is my husband! He said, “I don’t even know why, but I could sit and watch that show all day long!” So, when his birthday came around, our daughter bought for him Paul Hollywood’s cookbook, How to Bake. Then she challenged her dad to begin baking, which he has! He now bakes Paul’s recipes for challah, White Cobb Loaf, and wholemeal bread.
With all those many pounds of fresh cherries from Northwest Cherry Growers, we wanted to make a couple of baked recipes that were out of the ordinary. The Cherry Chocolate Muffins turned out to be one of our favorite baked goodies in a long while. Very rich and buttery.
- 200 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 150 g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 200 g strong white bread flour
- 1 1/2 t. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- Splash of milk
- 150 g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 470 g jar pitted morello cherries, drained
As a U.S. baker using our standard measuring units, you’ll need to convert grams into ounces using this Cooking Ingredients Conversion website. Be sure to jot down the U.S. measurements in your cookbook, so you can skip this time consuming step next time around.
Caster sugar is simply granulated sugar that has been ground to a super-fine consistency in a blender. Here are instructions for making your own caster sugar.
If you want to be 100% in compliance with Paul’s recipe and cannot find a jar of morello cherries, you can buy them on Amazon. However, we just used pitted fresh cherries and really liked the results. For full instructions, and because copying and pasting someone’s baking instructions isn’t kosher, you’ll find Paul’s recipe for Cherry Chocolate Muffins in his cookbook.
A second recipe from How to Bake by Paul Hollywood introduced our family to a fancy French word, clafoutis. I can tell you this, it’s not pronounced kluh-foo’-tiss.
A clafoutis is an egg-based recipe that would be perfect for a brunch. Of all the recipes we made with our shipment of cherries, this one was our least favorite, but I think it’s because we used too large of a baking dish and the final result was on the thin side. For a slightly sweet, elegant dish, it’s worth making.
- Large knob of unsalted butter for greasing
- 75 g plain flour
- 75 g caster sugar
- 300 ml full-fat milk
- 2 medium eggs, separated
- 2 T. kirsch
- 400 g ripe black cherries, pitted
- Powdered sugar for dusting
The next time you are looking for a special dish to bring to a potluck or breakfast/brunch, a clafoutis is eye-catching and just exotic enough to enhance your reputation as a chef par excellence.
BONUS: Make a cherry shrub
Shrubs have been around for a long time and were very popular in 17th Century Europe and in Colonial America. At that time, a shrub syrup was made by steeping fruit (usually berries) in vinegar for a period of time as a method of preservation and then adding the syrup to club soda.
First make a shrub syrup:
1 cup fruit, roughly chopped. Stone fruit should be pitted, berries or cherries can be lightly crushed.
1 cup sugar (plain white granulated sugar is easiest, but you can experiment with brown sugar)
1 cup apple cider vinegar. Red wine, white wine, or other fruit-based vinegars make good substitutions. Avoid plain old white vinegar.
Combine your fruit and sugar in a bowl. At first, it will look rather clumpy. Keep it in the fridge for a day or two, taking it out every so often for a good stir. The sugar acts as a desiccant, and will draw out the liquid from the fruit. When it’s ready, your concoction will begin to look like fruit floating around in syrup.
Sometimes this will take a day or two, or the process could take only a few hours. Strain with a simple wire mesh strainer into a separate container, and add your vinegar. That’s all there is to it!
Your shrub syrup will keep in your fridge for several months. If it becomes slimy or looks like it’s beginning to ferment (watch for signs of bubbles!), discard immediately. For best results, wait for the shrub to mellow in the fridge for a few days before using. This will allow the sharp vinegar flavor to meld with the fruit and sugar. Serve with club soda, still water, or, if you feel like it, use as an ingredient in the cocktail of your choice. Two to three tablespoons of shrub syrup is more than sufficient to flavor a full-sized glass of club soda.
We used up those 40 pounds of cherries!
When I first opened that huge box of cherries, I was a little dismayed. How on earth were we going to put them to good use? It didn’t take long at all to find amazing recipes of every kind. I want to thank Northwest Cherry Growers for providing me with the cream of the crop when it comes to fresh cherries.
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