Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cherries in wine: a recipe

Cherries in wine
It's challenge time again!

For those of you who have been playing along at home (or at least watching me do so), you know that I'm referring to Grow It Cook It Can It's Cook It! 2012 challenge. We've made and shared so many awesome staples and recipes so far: pasta, bread, butter, cheese, lactofermented veg (pickles), jam and now fruit canned in light syrup.

I can hear you laughing now: only for the Ninj would wine constitute "light syrup."

But I swear, Caroline gave us permission to booze up our fruit, so it counts!

This has been a crazy busy month for me so, although I had visions of jar after jar of peaches and apricots lining my basement shelves, I wound up only having time to do a small batch of cherries before I missed not only the posting deadline but also all the good summer fruit entirely.

But this recipe, from Eugenia Bone's Well-Preserved, looked very versatile -- how many other preserved foods can you use on both beef tenderloin and ice cream in the same meal?

Yah, that's what I'm talking about.

(Eugenia's book, by the way, is a lot like the Challenge itself: she gives you instructions for making a preserved food and then supplies several recipes that incorporate it. And it's full of really lovely photographs.)

There was quite a bit of pre-canning prep involved in these cherries -- more so than I'm used to with simple jams or with pickling. But, on the plus side, given that the cherries processed in the water bath for longer than 10 minutes, the jar prep took less time.

Here are my lessons learned and/or advice if you try these cherries yourself:
  • Wear an apron. And gloves (not kidding). And work over the sink or a surface that can't be stained. Seriously, unless you want a cherry-stained house and hands that make you look like you just murdered a small family, heed my advice.  

  • Buy a cherry pitter. Pitting cherries is tedious work but the pitter makes it tolerable. Given how often you will use it (read: next to never), even a cheap one is fine. See mine up there? I bought it at the dollar store and it worked like a charm. (Good thing they put the little cherry on it or else we would be confused about what it's for ... snort.)

  • Zesters rock! (I just got the one shown below and had a fun time carving stripes in the orange. Mr. Ninj called it "tigery." Just wanted to share.)

  • Use pint jars or larger. I decided to use half-pints so that I could spread the love of the cherries amongst friends and family but forgot to take into account that whole cherries are big (this is not jam) so there's not much of the good stuff in my jars. So bigger is better.

  • Choose whatever red wine you like -- but make it cheap. This is not the time to be a wine snob because you'll be cooking the bejesus out of it. I went with a lovely pinot noir that came in the jug size with a screw cap: tres classy. I'm sure zinfandel or merlot would also be great choices.
I hope you'll consider giving these cherries a try. The flavor is reminiscent of a spicy mulled wine, so I can envision cracking open jars of these babies quite often when the crisp fall weather arrives (which, scarily, is not that far away now).

As is my way with Challenge posts, I'll give you the instructions with photo steps. And, as with the marmalade, I'm not including complete canning instructions -- I have to assume you already know or can google the basics.

By the way, I haven't adapted this recipe at all from Eugenia's book, so thanks to her. Go buy her book.

Eugenia Bone's Cherries in Wine

First, assemble your ingredients:
2 quarts red wine
2 cups sugar
2 cups orange juice
24 whole cloves
16 long strips of orange zest (one large orange will get the job done)
4 pounds Bing cherries, pitted

Make sure you've prepped about 4-6 pint jars and their bands by scalding them (dip them in boiling water). Get your water canner ready and have your lids simmering to soften the seals.

Combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the cherries in a large pot and bring to a boil -- be sure to stir continually so the sugar doesn't burn. Add the cherries and simmer for about 10 minutes until soft.

Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon (try to pick out any stray cloves) and pack them into the jars.

Simmer the wine mixture until it is reduced by about half -- about 15 minutes. (At this point, Eugenia claims it will be "viscous" but mine wasn't. Maybe I messed up, who knows.) Strain the wine mixture (to remove the cloves and zest) and pour it over the packed cherries, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace.

Wipe the jar rims with a damp cloth, set the lids on the jars and screw on the bands (fingertip tight only). Place the jars into a water bath canner and, once the water has reboiled, process for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let the jar sit in the water for another minutes before removing them CAREFULLY.

Allow the jars to cool for at least 6 hours. Check the seals and you're done. Once you open them, refrigerate any leftover cherries.


  1. These cherries look amazing! I bet they would be a super impressive holiday gift besides. Oh man, did I just start thinking about WINTER?

  2. Over pork chops... And made into sorbet... mmm... (drool)

  3. Oh, I *love* the idea of making them into sorbet!

  4. I had two pints of liquid left after filling the cherries' jars ... so I canned it, too. Maybe for sorbet? Swirled into plain Greek yogurt?

  5. Yes! I had leftover liquid and I, too, saved it -- it's just like mulled wine!

  6. Oh my. Oh my goodness. And it's now cherry season, and I just bought more of the new 16 ounce Elite jars that I love to bake pies in. I made cherry heering with fresh cherries and vodka a month ago, and now this. Sigh.