It’s summer and the Can Jam is gaining momentum. There’s been a lot of excitement about this month’s ingredient, which is anything to do with “erries.” That means berries — and cherries, too. I decided to start my “erry” week with Cherry Meyer Lemon Preserves. We’re rolling in cherries, and June is a fine month for Meyer lemons in the Bay Area — particularly in the foggy East Bay.
I’ve wanted to try this mix for a couple years, ever since I saw a Ball Blue Book recipe for cherry marmalade that looked friendly and adaptable. My only warning is that you’ve got to be a sweet lover to want this one, even though I slightly reduced the amount of sugar called for by the recipe. When I took the mixture off the heat, my first thought was “Well, if I wanted Pop Tart filling, I would have gone down to 7-11 and bought some.” But Frosted Cherry has always been my favorite Pop Tart flavor, so I was not overly concerned.
After the mixture cooled and the flavors had a chance to settle, I kept catching myself with a spoon in the jar. It’s pretty darned good. I think it has something to do with the lemons. I subbed Meyers for the original recipe’s orange, and as the citrus gave more of its tartness to the mix, the sweetness mellowed considerably.
Finally, though the Blue Book calls its recipe a marmalade, my version yielded whole cherries and sliced citrus peel in a very heavy syrup, which is why I’m calling it a preserve. I don’t think there’s anything I could have done to morph this into a traditional marmalade jelly — not one that I would want to eat, anyway. When I tested the mixture on a cold spoon, it was quite thick with a little wrinkling. Done. Taking into account both texture and sweetness, this definitely isn’t an on-your-toast marmalade; it’s a luscious preserve to spoon over yogurt, ice-cream, or some nice, warm baked thing. (I wish I’d had a nice, warm baked thing for the photo below, but I trust you’ll get the idea.)
Cherry Meyer Lemon Preserves
1 quart cherries (I used 2/3 Utah Giant and 1/3 Ranier, both grown in California — go figure)
2/3 cup sliced Meyer lemon (original recipe called for orange)
3 cups sugar (original recipe called for 3 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1. Sterilize your jars and put 5 teaspoons on a plate in the freezer, to test your preserves for doneness later.
2. Finely the slice lemons. I recommend the method described in How to Slice Citrus Fruit for Marmalade.
3. Pit the cherries. (There was a whole lot of Twitter chatter about cherry pitters this month. You can find a variety of first-rate options, including one restaurant-quality pitter costing an astonishing $72.95, at Lehman’s Non-Electric. I tease about some of their eyebrow-raising pitter prices, but I do love Lehman’s catalog. They’ve got just about everything you could want for your canning kitchen.)
4. Combine all ingredients (pitted cherries, lemon slices, sugar, lemon juice) in large glass or ceramic bowl and let sit for an hour at room temp while you’re sterilizing your jars or whatnot. The fruit will begin to soften and release some juice and, as described by Well Preserved, your preserves will be a bit brighter in the end.
5. Transfer mixture to jam pan and boil to the jelling point. For me, using a large stainless steel pan, it took only 10 minutes or so to cook this mixture. It was fast.
To test for doneness: Remove the pan from the heat. Use one of your frozen spoons to scoop up a little bit of the mixture — not a whole spoonful. Return the spoon to the freezer and wait 3 minutes. Retrieve the spoon and hold it vertically. If the mixture runs very slowly or not all, it’s done. Alternately, give the mixture a little push with your finger. If you see creases or wrinkles, it’s done.
6. Ladle the hot preserves into sterilized jars and process 10 minutes in a hot-water bath. Yields 3-4 half-pint jars.