I'll be leaving on Saturday for 9 days of mountain man style camping, so like a responsible blogger, I'm breaking up something that could be one long post and scheduling it to run in segments periodically throughout next week so you won't be bored silly while I'm gone. It should actually be more regular posting than I've been doing lately while I've been here!
A while back a friend and I picked a boatload of cherries. Okay, about 4 buckets full. They were sweet cherries like Bing (not sure the actual variety, but they were not pie cherries). This cherry source came on kind of unexpectedly, so I had to make some time to take care of all the cherries. Here's my advice when you've got a lot of food to preserve: invite a friend or two over to help you.
We ended up bottling, dehydrating, and freezing cherries until we were sick of seeing cherries, but we got those 4 buckets of cherries taken care of in a day (this would have taken a week of afternoons on my own--hooray for friends!).
If you get a bunch of cherries, bottling them is the easiest and quickest way to get them preserved. It requires no special equipment aside from some pots, canning supplies (jars, lids, etc.) and a water bath canner.
First, wash the cherries. I just stick them in the sink in some water and kind of swish them around a bit.
Heat up some light syrup in a big pot (3-4 C water to 1 C sugar or 4:1 ratio of whatever you want to measure with). Put some lids in a pot and put them on low heat. Put water in your canner and get it heating up. Now while everything is heating up, put cherries in jars. This is not technical, you just take them out of the wash water and put them in clean quart jars. You could do pints also if you want to--I just have kids, so we do fruit in quarts now.
When you've filled 7 quarts (or however many jars your canner holds), pour the hot syrup over the cherries. I put the jars on the stove when they've got the cherries in them so they'll kind of heat up before I put the hot syrup in. Wipe the rims, screw on your hot lids and put the jars in the canner. I had one jar break this round because the water in the canner was boiling when I put the jars in. These jars are not real hot, I had better success putting them in before the water boils and letting it all heat up together. Subsequent batches I shut the canner's burner off and let the water cool a bit while I got the next round of cherries in bottles.
Put the lid on the canner and let the water boil 25 minutes for either pints or quarts. So if you put the jars in before the water boils, don't start timing until the water is boiling. At the end of the canning time, take the jars out and let them cool. For some reason, these seemed to take a long time for the lids to pop down--had me worried a bit, but they finally did.
I loved bottled cherries as a kid, but this is not my favorite way to process cherries anymore. The great thing about it is that you are able to process quite a few cherries with minimal equipment. You do have to spit the pits out as you're eating them--that's half the fun of eating bottled cherries!