If you have a perfect batch of sweet cherries, I can't think of a better way to preserve them than to pack them whole (stemless with pits intact) in a simple syrup of sugar & water. Leaving the pits in the cherries will impart a pleasantly bitter note that is so subtle it might even be undetectable to some people.
The relatively long processing time -- compared to pickles and jam -- will draw ruby-red juice out of the cherries, creating an elegant light syrup with pure fruit flavor; perfect for sipping on its own or for fancifying plain seltzer water and/or cocktails. Serve the cherries on ice cream, yogurt or just eat them straight from the jar.
You could use any type of sweet cherries for this, but I usually use Bings. If you use Rainiers, you won't have the ruby-red syrup, but they'll surely look spectacular in the jars with their bright yellow skins, and are bound to taste as good as they look, if not better.
This recipe was inspired by Linda Ziedrich, who has a recipe for Moldovan Cherry Compot [sic] in her terrific book "The Joy of Jams, Jellies and other Sweet Preserves".
Makes 1 quart (or 2 pints)
- 1 pound Cherries, washed, stems removed, pits intact
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
1.) Prepare canning jars and keep hot until ready to use; prepare lids according to the manufacturer's instructions.
3.) Make a syrup by boiling the water, then adding the sugar, stirring to dissolve. As soon as the sugar has dissolved completely, carefully ladle the hot syrup over the cherries, filling the jars to within 1/2 inch of the rim.
4.) Using a chopstick, plastic knife, or "bubble remover", pop any air bubbles which can be seen trapped in the syrup. Be careful not to poke holes in the cherry skins.
5.) Wipe rims clean, place warm seals on top the jars and screw bands onto jars "finger-tight".
6.) Process in a Boiling Water Bath for 45 minutes for quarts, 35 minutes for pints.
7.) If jars lid seals it will easily keep for one year in a cool, dark place. If jar doesn't seal, place it in your refrigerator and eat within 3 months. Either way, use within 2 weeks of opening.