For a few weeks during the late spring and early summer cherries flood into the market. They, like strawberries, are the indicator that summer is on it’s way. Each week at market I noticed how quickly the varieties changed. For two weeks in early May the Brooks had the spotlight, but then they were gone, only to be replaced by the Chelans, then Rainers and Lapins, and finally the Bings in late June. Funny thing is if you blink you’ll miss a specific variety due to their extremely short season.
I don’t often work with cherries but this year I decided that needed to change, especially after reading a few tweets from ChezPim and her Cherry with Lemon Verbena adventures during a recent jam & preserving class. A good friend of mine absolutely loves cherries and it just so happens that his birthday falls right in the middle of cherry season. This year for his birthday he was surprised and delighted to receive a couple of jars of Cherry & Lemon Verbena Preserves. After one taste he also informed me that this would need to become a new birthday tradition.
3 pounds pitted cherries
1 cup Filtered water*
Juice & zest of one lemon juice
3-4 cups sugar
4 sprigs of lemon verbena
Yields 4-5 half pint jars
*When making this preserve I wanted to be sure that the cherries would be soft and spreadable. Often times when I’ve tasted cherry preserves I find the cherries to be too chewy for my liking. To combat that problem I first let the cherries boil in a little bit of water before adding the sugar.
Place six clean half pints jars on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a 225° oven. Place lids and other jarring tools (pitcher, ladle, etc) in a medium stockpot, fill with water, cover, and bring to a boil. Place a few stainless steel spoons or plates in the freezer for set testing.
Wash and pit cherries the easiest way you see fit, either by hand or with a pitter, and place in a large stock pot. Add the lemon juice, zest, 1 cup of the filtered water, and then bring to a boil. Let the cherries boil and which allows them to soften. During this time the juices will evaporate. Cook until the cherries are spreadable and if need be add more water 1/4 cup at a time. Let juices reduce by half and submerge the lemon verbena in the cherries, add the sugar, and slowly bring boil until the gel point of 220° is reached. Remove from heat and discard the lemon verbena sprigs. Remove jars from oven and ladle or pour jam into hot jars. Clean rims with damp towel, secure lids on to the jars, and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove jars from the oven and let cool completely.
We enjoyed this preserve over vanilla ice cream, but it would also be lovely served over pork, with a soft set cheese, or any other way you see fit.
Now go out and procure some cherries before they’re gone!
Until next time.