Michigan Tart Cherries – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Tart cherry season here in Michigan has been open for about two weeks. Last weekend we made a family outing of picking cherries and raspberries. The picking was easy because the fruit was very plentiful. If the family hadn’t spent more time arguing than picking, we probably would have been done a lot sooner, but then it just wouldn’t have been a true “family” outing if that were the case.

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Why is it that we can’t have just one family outing where everyone gets along? If I go out with Grace alone or Zeb alone or Hubby alone, everything is great. We have a good time, we laugh, we relate, we make some great memories. Throw anyone else into the mix though and it’s a constant battle. There’s teasing and picking on, ganging up, and bullying. By the end, actually it doesn’t even take that long, at least someone isn’t talking, someone is grumpy, and I’m left wondering why I even suggested we go out as a family!

The silence was deafening!

The silence was deafening!

I thought as the kids got older they’d mellow and we’d fall into an easy, getting-along stage. At ages 20 and 22, we haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps Hubby at 53 and me at 48 are the problem. Who knows?

Actually though, for all the fighting and bantering, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone home. While they all got into their little tiffs and exchanges of words, I kept my distance and enjoyed the day with each of them individually. I didn’t dare try to converse with more than one of them at a time. Separately they were fine. It was just as a group things weren’t going to mesh. So when we got home Grace wasn’t speaking to Hubby, Hubby wasn’t speaking to Zeb, and everyone was still speaking to me. That works for me!

Oh well, what’s the saying “This too shall pass.” I sure hope so. Growing pains aren’t much fun on family outings or vacations.

With the 20 pounds of cherries we managed to pick I’ve been busy canning. Recipes for Danish Cherry Sauce and Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Filling can be found at Simply Grateful Canning. I’ve also updated the Fruit Page to include sections for all the recipes from Simply Grateful Housewife and Simply Grateful Canning for Sweet Cherry Canning Recipes and Tart Cherry Canning Recipes. Check them out if you need some ideas for canning either of these fruits.

Michigan cherries are some of the best and picking them every year has become a tradition for me. It’s unfortunate the family couldn’t set aside their differences and make the most of the time we had together, but I didn’t let them ruin it for me. Family dynamics aren’t always easy, but taking them in stride helps ease the pain a bit, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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But We Don’t NEED Anymore Strawberry Jam!

Where is it written that you can only make something when you NEED it? I mean honestly, just because I have a pantry with 2015 jars of strawberry jam still on the shelves, does this automatically mean I can’t make some 2016 jars?

Isn’t there something about fresh-from-the-pot strawberry jam on lightly toasted bread or a hot from the oven biscuit that can’t be duplicated, even in home-canned strawberry jam. Sure I love my canned goods and am grateful the pantry is brimming with more than 70 different jams, jellies, preserves, and spreads, but given the opportunity to make a fresh batch to eat straight from the pot, I’m just going to have to do it.

This year I didn’t plan on making jam, but once those berries were safely home and sitting on the counter, filling the kitchen with their sweet smell, something came over me and I found myself whipping up a batch and then two.

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Never fear though, the first batch was gone within hours (given away and eaten) and the second batch isn’t going to make it the pantry. Changing up last years recipe a bit yielded a jam so good, I can’t keep it from being devoured. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning for Strawberry Jam.

The rest of the berries were frozen or dehydrated or eaten. It’s amazing how fast 20 pounds of berries can get used up. Maybe I’ll have to head out for another 20 pounds or so. I don’t really NEED them or anything, but where is it written…

And for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

 

Recipe Catch-Up #2 – Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

When I saw this recipe for a jam combining raspberry with jalapeno peppers, I was intrigued. Thinking back to the Jalapeno Jelly I made last year I wondered if this would be something we would actually eat. Although the jalapeno jelly was good, the uses were limited to a few appetizer recipes or possibly on a bagel with cream cheese.

Being an extreme canner, I had to try it, even if it was only this once.

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Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

4 Cups Strained Raspberry Juice

1 Large Jalapeno Pepper

2 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of water

  • Mince the jalapeno pepper and depending on how spicy you want the jam, remove or add the seeds. The seeds will make it spicier.
  • Combine the raspberry juice jalapeno pepper, sugar and lemon juice in stock pot. Bring to near boil.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil for one minute or until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars. Wipe rims, adjust lids, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 7 – 8 oz. Jars

I began tasting this while the spread was cooking and at first the jalapeno taste was not noticeable. I saved a small portion in a bowl while processing the remaining and as it cooled the flavor of the jalapeno began to come through.

Using one jalapeno with no seeds gave it a slight pepper flavor with very little spice. If I were to make this again I would add a few seeds to the spread.

I’ve been eating this spread on toast and find it a unique change from my other spreads. I’m glad I tried this and now have something a little different to share with family and friends, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Recipe Catch-Up #1 – Raspberry-Blueberry Preserves

Raspberry-Blueberry Preserves

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4 Cups Seedless Raspberry Juice

5 Cups Fresh or Frozen BlueBerries

3 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 5 Tbsp. Water

  • Combine raspberry juice, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in large stock pot. Bring mixture to a near boil.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil. Boil for one minute or until thickened. Remove from heat and let sit five minutes.
  • Ladle preserves into hot jars, wipe rims, adjust lids, and process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: 11 – 8 oz. Jars

This preserve is excellent on toast, English muffins, bagels, or just about anything, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Three Canning Projects At Once – Layered Berry Spread

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A few years ago I came across an article in a magazine while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store for layered jam. The idea was to layer two separate jams in the same jar before processing in the water bath. This year I finally decided to give it a try using raspberry and blackberry seedless spread.

The first step in making a layered jam is to prepare each jam.

Raspberry Seedless Spread

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4 Cups Strained Raspberry Juice

2 Cups Sugar

3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

5 1/2 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of Water

  • Combine fruit juice, sugar and lemon juice in stock pot. Bring to near boil. Turn heat to medium-high and add Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil and cook for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat. If making a layered spread, cover and set aside. If canning individually, ladle spread into hot jars, adjust lids, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  • NOTE: If not canning this spread as a “layered spread” the amount of Clear Jel and water to 3 Tbsp.

Blackberry Seedless Spread

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5 1/2 Cups Strained Blackberry Juice

3 Cups Sugar

6 1/2 Tbsp Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of Water

  • Combine fruit juice and sugar in stock pot. Bring to near boil. Turn heat to medium-high and add Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil and cook for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat. If making a layered spread, cover and set aside. If canning individually, ladle spread into hot jars, adjust lids, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  • NOTE: If not canning this spread as a “layered spread” the amount of Clear Jel and water to 5 Tbsp.

Blackberry/Raspberry Layered Seedless Spread

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  • Fill hot jars half full with either blackberry or raspberry seedless spread. Let spread sit in jars for 5 minutes.
  • Ladle second spread carefully into half-full jars. Be sure to ladle hot spread into jars by allowing it to slide down the sides of the jar, this will ensure that the layered effect is visible.
  • Wipe rims, top with hot lids and bands, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This particular project did not turn out exactly as I had envisioned because my raspberry spread was darker than anticipated and the color differentiation between the two spreads was hardly noticeable. Next time I try making a layered spread, I will use two spreads/jams that have a more noticeable contrast.

Although this particular project did not turn out exactly as I wanted, I am glad I tried it. I ended up with some raspberry spread canned separately, blackberry spread canned separately, and then several jars where I layered the two. Experience is the best teacher and even though the jars of layered spread might not be as impressive as I had hoped, I now know how to remedy this in the future, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #5 – Raspberry-Cherry Preserves

Although raspberries are not my favorite summer fruit, I do like to can with them when I can combine them with other fruits. Combining them with some sweet cherries seemed like a good idea. The sweetness of the cherries I hoped would tone down the tart, distinct flavor of the raspberries.

Raspberry-Cherry Preserves

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2 Cups Seedless Raspberry Pulp

4 Cups Sweet Cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped in food processor

3 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

4 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 4 Tbsp. Water

  • Combine raspberry pulp and coarsely chopped sweet cherries in large stock pot. Add sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add Clear Jel slurry. Bring to boil and boil for one minute.
  • Remove from heat, ladle into hot jars, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

This preserve proved to be a good combination of sweet and tart. Some raspberries can be very sweet, but I have always found them to have a tartness to them regardless. Using twice the amount of cherries as raspberry pulp helped tone down the dominating flavor of the raspberries and allowed the two fruits to meld into a mouth-watering preserve.

Michigan cherries are by far my favorite fruit to can. 2015 has thus far been a good year for canning and definitely a good year for cherries, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #4 – Cran-Cherry Pie Filling

Back  about 10 years ago, before I started canning pie filling, I was shopping for cherry pie filling for a holiday pie. My brand of choice at the time was Comstock and that year they happened to come out with a Cranberry-Cherry Pie Filling. Intrigued, I had to try it. It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, by the time I went back to buy the cranberry-cherry pie filling again, which could have easily been months, they had discontinued it. Bummer!  To remedy not having a pie filling that included cranberries I opted to add a can of whole berry cranberry sauce to the cherry pie filling and the results were good, but not exactly the same.

This year after making my regular batch of Tart Cherry Pie Filling I decided to try my own version of Cranberry-Cherry Pie Filling. The results were awesome.

Cranberry-Cherry Pie Filling

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8 Pounds Pitted/Stemmed Tart Cherries

3 – 12 oz. Bags Fresh or Frozen Cranberries

5 Cups Sugar

1 1/4 Cup Clear Jel dissolved in 1 Cup Water

7 Cups Cherry Water/Juice

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

  • Rinse and pit cherries. Blanch cherries and cranberries in boiling water for one minute. Drain, reserving water/juice, and keep heated in covered stock pot.
  • Combine Clear Jel slurry, lemon juice and sugar in stock pot with 7 cups of reserved cherry/cranberry water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat until it thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat. Fold in fruit.
  • Fill jars with filling, leaving a one-inch head space. Adjust lids and process in water bath for 25 minutes.

I cannot believe how much this tastes like how I remember the Comstock version did. What a thrill. I cannot wait to make a pie or perhaps some strudel with my version.

I absolutely love canning, but when canning brings back something I loved but could no longer find, I love it even more, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Michigan Cherry Recipes #3 – Very Cherry Syrup

Is there a rule out there that says a syrup can’t be chunky? If a syrup is by definition a liquid, then chunks of fruit in it must make it a sauce, right?

A sauce can be a “semi-solid food” which chunks of pureed fruit could qualify for, but perhaps with so much fruit in it, a spread would be a better description.

Spreads are just as they imply, food that is literally spread, usually with a knife. But this “syrup” can actually be poured right out of the bottle.

I have no idea what you would really call this, so unless you are a real stickler about what makes a syrup, a sauce, a spread — and let’s not even open up the whole can of worms about the possibility this is a preserve or jam — I’m calling this on a syrup. Mainly because that is exactly what I made it to be used as. It can on pancakes, crepes, French toast, waffles, ice cream and any other place you would use a syrup.

Of course, it’s great on toast too — but let’s not start that again.

Very Cherry Syrup

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2 1/2 Pounds Unpitted Sweet Cherries

3 Pounds Unpitted Tart Cherries

4 Cups Sugar

3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

4 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 4 Tbsp. Water

  • Stem and pit cherries. Place cherries in small batches in food processor and process until fruit is in very small pieces. The 5 1/2 pounds of combined cherries yielded 9 cups of pureed pulp.
  • Put cherry pulp in large stock pot. Add sugar and lemon juice and heat over medium heat until near boil. Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  • Ladle syrup into hot jars, seal, and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes.

What I really like about this recipe is that if I really wanted a true syrup and/or spread, all I would have to do is strain out the pulp after pureeing the fruit in the food processor. Then I could make a traditional syrup with the liquid and a true spread with the pulp. This year however I decided to be a rebel and make a chunky syrup that can be used pretty much as any/all of the above.

I love the versatility of canning and coming up with new and fun recipes. Using both sweet and tart cherries was only the beginning when it came to this endeavor, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Strawberry Canning #2 – Raspberry-Strawberry Spread

I have been canning for 28 years but have yet to win a single Blue Ribbon for my efforts.  This is due in part to the fact that I have never entered any contests, but even if I had, I seriously doubt my canning results would warrant any ribbon, blue or otherwise.

When I can I am concerned with two things, taste and making something healthier than can be bought in the store. I don’t follow recipes as written most of the time because usually they call for more sugar than I want to us and many require wait time for liquids to clarify.  You would be hard pressed to find a jar of jelly or syrup in my pantry that is not cloudy.  This is for two reason:  First and foremost, I like to have some pulp in my jellies and syrups because I believe this produces a tastier product and when I press liquid through cheesecloth, a sieve, or process through a food mill, I want every last drop of liquid I can get from whatever fruit I am using. The pulp doesn’t change the consistency of the end product, but the pressing does make it nearly impossible to end up with a clear jar of jelly or syrup.  Second, I am impatient.

The second project I decided to work on with the strawberries I picked this week was based on a recipe from Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt, Raspberry-Strawberry Jelly.  I say based on because although some of the ingredient measurements are the same, I changed up the procedures, amount of sugar and thickening agent. I didn’t want to lose any of the fresh strawberry or raspberry flavors by clarifying the juices or cover up the taste of the berries with a ton of sugar. And if you’ve read any of my previous posts on canning jams or jellies you know I’m a Clear Jel kind of canner.

Raspberry-Strawberry Spread

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To Make Juice:

7 Cups Sliced Strawberries

7 Cups Fresh or Frozen Raspberries

1/2 Cup Water

Spread Ingredients:

5 Cups Juice

4 1/2 Cups Sugar

2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

7 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 7 Tbsp. Water

  • Place fruit and water in large stock pot.  Bring fruit to boil and boil uncovered 10 minutes.  Remove cooked fruit from heat and puree with stick blender. Run pureed fruit through food mill or fine mesh strainer to remove seeds.  Press to extract as much juice as possible.
  • Return strained fruit juice to stock pot adding sugar and lemon juice.  Heat over medium-high heat to near boil.  Stir in Clear Jel slurry and bring to full boil.  Boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat, ladle into hot jars and process in water bath for 10 minutes
  • This recipe made seven 8 ounce jars plus one 4 ounce jar.

I called my version of this a “spread” rather than a jelly because the consistency with the Clear Jel is easier to spread than I consider a true jelly to be.  Since starting to use Clear Jel for 95% of my jams and jellies, I won’t even consider using something that would produce an end result of something that tears up bread when I try to spread it.  The only exception to this rule might be cranberry sauce but even then I’m willing to forego the cranberry ‘mold’ option and just spoon it out of the jar.  It tastes the same and actually being able to spread it on a turkey burger is more important than having it slide out of the jar in one chunk.

My canning might never earn me any “Blue Ribbons” from a local county fair, but having Hubby finish off an entire jar this morning on his breakfast crepes says more than winning any contest ever could, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Plum Goodness – Plum-Cranberry Sauce

Having our own plum tree can be both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because over the past two years we harvested more than 400 pounds of fruit, a curse because over the past two years we harvested more than 400 pounds of fruit and more than 200 of it had to be canned or processed.  Last year we only had about 85 pounds of usable fruit to work with, but seeing as I still had plum pulp and juice in the freezer from 2013, I wasn’t about to complain.

Our whole family loves plum everything.  I make jam, jelly, preserves, juice, pie filling, can the whole fruit, and even dry them and make plum fruit leather.  Still, with so much fruit, the freezer quickly filled of containers of fruit and pulp that I had to save for another day. Today was that day.

Having a wonderful stockpile of cranberries in the freezer to keep me happy until next October when they once again will be sold locally, I decided to use some of them to make homemade cranberry sauce.  Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to improve upon an old favorite, I decided that rather than use the “water” the recipe called for, I would use plum juice.  What a great way to utilize the abundance of plum juice in the freezer and make our cranberry sauce even better.

Plum-Cranberry Sauce/Spread

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  • 3 – 12 oz. Packages Cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 Cups Plum Juice
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 7 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed in 1/2 Cup Water

Rinse and sort cranberries.  Combine cranberries and plum juice in large stock pot and slowly bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes covered, allowing the cranberries to pop.

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Remove from heat.  Using a stick blender, puree the cranberries until the mixture is smooth.  Pour liquid into a mesh strainer, removing the seeds and skins from the sauce.

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Return the strained sauce to the stock pot and add the sugar.  Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

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Slowly stir in Clear Jel slurry and increase heat to medium-high.  Bring to boil and boil hard for one minute.

Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars.  Process for 20 minutes in water-bath canner.

This recipe yields 5 – 12 oz. jars and 1 – 8 oz jar.

This particular recipe does not make a cranberry sauce that is jellied as those in the stores.  It is smooth and spreadable.  Not jellied enough for molding or slicing.

Plum Cranberry Sauce (1)

We especially like using this sauce on turkey burgers and pork, or even spreading on chicken like barbecue sauce.  It is sweet but still tart and the plum juice adds a subtle undertone of fruity flavor that makes this a great staple to have on hand for all sorts of meals.

An over abundance of plums might be a lot of work and at times may seem like a curse, but actually I am very grateful and love every minute of it.  From the first bud in spring, until the last plum is harvested, to the first taste of juicy fruit, and finally the last drop of juice frozen, I am Simply Grateful.