Canning is the best way to preserve cherries long term. It is also probably the hardest method (i.e. takes the longest) and requires the most equipment. You will need a canner (a huge pot with a rack in it), canning jars (reusable), lids, and tongs. If you don’t have a canner, you can get one at most box stores and they run any where from $15 – $35 from what we’ve priced. The difference in price is usually due to the size of the pot and how many jars it will hold. Jars vary in price. You want the bigger sized jars (quart), if you have a family, but the pint size jars are fine for smaller batches.
I personally prefer the raw pack method and light syrup. It is a low amount of sugar and the quickest method. You can use a light or medium syrup, if you prefer, but the cherries are generally so sweet, you should probably drop back for best results. If you are buying store-bought cherries, use the heavier syrups, store bought cherries do not have the same amount of sugar as orchard ripened. They are picked too early and they never sweeten properly.
Extra Light Syrup Ingredients: (will make 6 cups of syrup)
- 1 1/4 c of sugar
- 5 1/2 c of water
Raw-Pack Method (makes about 8 pint jars or 4 quart jars)
Need: 8 – 10 pounds of Cherries (unpitted)
Note: You can pit them, if you have small children, if you do you may want to increase the amount of cherries by a couple more pounds. See here for our cherry pitter suggestions and reviews.
Ladle 1/2 cup of your hot syrup into each hot jar. Take your cherries and make a small slit into each one as you place them into the jars (this will prevent bursting or shrinking). Fill jars with cherries to within a generous 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Shake the jar gently to make sure the cherries are distributing evenly but don’t crush them into the jar. Add hot syrup to cover cherries, if necessary, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar and remove any air bubbles. Adjust the headspace as necessary by adding more syrup if needed. Center lid on jar and screw down band until finger tip tight.
Place jars in canner and completely cover with water. Bring to a boil and process jars for 25 minutes. Remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes. Remove jars, cool and store.
You can make the syrup with a sweetener, but since sweeteners tend to be sweeter than sugar, you probably want to use half as much to start. You can also use pitted cherries but if you do, you will need to treat them to prevent browning. You can do this by using citric acid, ascorbic acid or by submerging the fruit in a mixture of 1/4 c lemon juice and 4 cups of water for several minutes.