Cherries and Peaches and Blue Ridge Mountains Recipe
I have been watching the opening dates for the local orchards for over a month. I check once every couple weeks and try to keep up with they expect opening day to begin on the different seasons. Imagine my surprise when I checked in on Saturday morning to find the cherry orchard I wanted to visit to be already in full swing and the end of the season looking like it would wind down by next week.
Hastily I planned in my head and ran around getting chores finished so that early the next morning we could get on the road. It would be a tight a trip time wise if we didn’t boogie because J. had to be home by 6pm in the exact opposite direction we were planning to be.
Up early and ready we headed off first to Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, Virginia. Beautiful ride there. Beautiful trees lining a mountain valley. We ended up with two bushels of peaches and one half gallon of peach cider.
Then we were pointing our noses toward Spring Valley Orchard (owned by the same family) for cherries in Afton, Va.
We brought home plenty of both!
What will we do with all of those cherries? Let’s see … cherries jubilee, cherry pie, cherry jam, and cherry cordial to name a few. I started last night putting them up whole in a medium syrup.
Canning is easy. You have to remember to keep everything sterile and clean. Pack and process foods in the right way using the right technique. For canned cherries using the water bath* method you need a few supplies.
Start with sterilized jars, lids and rings. Having these ready before you start with you fruits is a huge time saver. I wash my jars in the dishwasher. I check them thoroughly for chips, cracks and dishwasher residue. You want pristine jars and equipment.
To pack whole fruits in syrup you need to decide on the syrup you want to use – light, medium or heavy – indicating the ratio of sugar to water. I used a light syrup which is a 20% sugar solution. See the end of this post for the syrup chart.
Pour about a half a cup into your hot, clean jar.
Pack hot fruit into jars careful not to pack too tightly causing the fruits to crush. Leaving about 1/2 – 1/4 inch head space in the top of the jar.
Top off the jars with more syrup. Using a skewer or other utensil check the jars for air pockets and remove those. Jiggle the jars a little so that all the space is filled with syrup and fruit.
Wipe the mouth of the jar clean using a hot damp cloth. You don’t want any food residue between the jar mouth and the sealing lid. Apply hot lids and bands.
Process in a water bath canner – pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 30 minutes. Do not cut this time short. You must process for proper amounts of time. Begin timing when the water and jars reach the boiling and allow to boil for the full amount of time.
Place jars on a work space on a towel. They are hot so be very careful. I use a jar lifter. As the jars begin to seal you will here the pop of the can lids. You will be able to see the seal as the center of the jar is depressed. If the jars do not seal as they are cooling you will need to remove those lids, discard them, and process again in the water bath canner.
If the center of the lid is not depressed and it depresses when you run your finger over it do not trust that seal. Apply a new lid and process those jars again.
Once the jars have self sealed remove the bands and wipe the jars down with a hot damp cloth. If you were a little messy filling the jars you may have to run them under a little warm water and sponge off any sticky residue. You don’t want to attract insects to your long term storage cabinets.
Top the jars with rounds of fabric or paper to prevent the edges of the lids from collecting dust and preventing rust due to humidity.
Label each jar so it can be easily identified with the contents and the date it was canned.
Aren’t those jars pretty?
Check back tomorrow to see what other goodies I am working on with this beautiful fresh fruit from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
Notes for syrup and water bath canning.
To make syrup for whole pack fruits in pints:
Light syrup is a 20% sugar solution: 6 cups water or fruit juice and 2 cups sugar.
Medium syrup is a 30% sugar solution: 6 cups water or fruit juice and 3 cups sugar.
Heavy syrup is a 40% sugar solution: 6 cups of water or fruit juice and 4 cups of sugar.
To make syrup for whole pack fruits in quarts:
Light syrup is a 20% sugar solution: 9 cups water or fruit juice and 2 cups sugar.
Medium syrup is a 30% sugar solution: 8 cups water or fruit juice and 4 cups sugar.
Heavy syrup is a 40% sugar solution: 8 cups of water or fruit juice and 6 cups of sugar.
I tend to make the same sugar solution for both pints and quarts. I use the quart measure and then I add an extra cup of sugar. It’s the way I have always done it. You know, just to be sure the sweet proportion is high.
*Water Bath Canning
Water bath method of canning used for foods with high acid content like fruits, pickles, james, jellies, and other preserved. Sterlized jars packed with the food items are them processed in boiling water to seal the food in and prevent spoilage over a long term.
NEVER use this method for meats and low acid vegetables. The temperatures never rise enough to kill off pathogens that may be lurking on the surface. Eating foods not properly processed can cause serious illness and even be fatal.
If you are interested in beginning canning I suggest picking up a few books at your local library and reading through all he free information available through the USDA and your local County Extension Office. Ball puts out a new canning cook every couple of years and no matter the cover it is always referred to as the “Ball Blue Book”.
Home canning is a great way to preserve the very best of in season foods available to you. Once you make the initial investment in jars, lids and bands the costs are minimal.