Cherishing Cherries

cherries in hand

It’s cherry season and I couldn’t be more excited! I love cherries! They’re incredibly good for your body. According to Eating Well, cherries can help you balance your blood pressure, get a better night’s rest, ease muscle soreness, combat cancer and help you lose weight.

Whenever cherry season arrives, I buy one bag to eat and two bags to can. I love making cherry pie filling. It tastes delicious on pancakes, low fat cheesecake or in a pie or cobbler. The possibilities are endless!

Now I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why I would ever take the time to make my own cherry pie filling. Look at the ingredients on the store bought cherry pie filling next time you get a chance. It’s full of high fructose corn syrup and food coloring to give it that exceptionally bright red appearance. I could care less how bright my cherries. I care about the flavor and not feeling guilty when I indulge in it. So, I started making my own. The best part is that I can enjoy these cherries any day of the year.

This is the recipe I use thanks to My Baking Addiction. The only change I made was to substitute Sure Gel (pectin) for the cornstarch. Put it in a water bath and you just canned your own cherry pie filling.

Today I’m trying to dehydrate the cherries so I can use them in baking and as a snack throughout the year. Buying dried cherries is ridiculously expensive. It just makes sense that while I’m working with the cherries to toss some in the oven.

Quick Tip: If you decide to work with cherries, invest in a pitter. They’re around $10-$15 and worth every penny! You can find them at any cooking store or on Amazon.com. I finally broke down and bought one and absolutely love it! It saves me so much time and frustration. Trust me, this is one kitchen gadget you don’t want to be without.

It doesn’t matter if you decide to dry your cherries, bake them or save them for a rainy day. Just enjoy cherry season because sadly it’s gone before you finished celebrating that it was here.

cherries

 

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

Ingredients:

  • 5 to 6 cups fresh pitted cherries, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch or Sure Gel
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (Optional)

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Stir in almond extract. Cool slightly before using as a topping.

Notes:

– If using sour cherries, you will need to adjust the amount of sugar. I’d recommend starting about ¾ cup and working your way up if more sweetness is needed.
– Refrigerate leftover fresh cherry pie filling in a sealed container for up to 2 days.

Dehydrating Cherries

Recipe courtesy of Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

Wash cherries, cut in half and remove pits. Dry at 165 degrees 2-3 hours then dry at 135 degrees until leathery and slightly sticky. Use sweet cherries as a snack or like raisins in baked goods. Use sour varieties in baked goods.

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