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Cherry Syrup

In the mid 1960s, we lived on a small farm near Salem, Oregon. We had lots of fruit trees and Mama took advantage of the fruit we harvested, canning and freezing whatever she could.

I don't preserve much produce these days, but one thing I do enjoy making is cherry syrup and jelly. My friend, Ray, texted me a couple of days ago, and said his sour cherries were ready to be picked. So, yesterday morning, I went and picked about 2 gallons of them. The memories of my childhood days, climbing the trees in the fruit orchard, come flooding back and do my heart good.

When I came home, I poured the cherries into a sink full of cold water. All the leaves and bits of old blossom rise to the top and I siphon them off. Then, removing what stems are attached as I go, I divide them into my two largest pots (seeds and all), cover them with ample water (about 3 inches above the cherries) and set them on the stove to simmer for about 2 hours. I want the cherries to become soft and mushy. I add water as they boil, because I want about an inch of juice above the cherries, when I am done.

Once the cherries are cooked, I put my biggest pot in the sink, and then my biggest mesh strainer (this way I don't have to use cheesecloth) over the pot, and emptied all the cooked cherries and their juice slowly into the strainer, tamping things down as I go, so they all fit. I set a plate on top of the cherries and a large cup or jar of water on top of the plate and leave things to drain overnight. In the morning, after removing the cup and plate, the cherries looked like this: all the juice was drained into the pot....

See...lovely juice.

I poured the juice into a gallon container (miracle of miracles, I had exactly one gallon!) and put it in the fridge. Tomorrow, I will make Cherry Syrup.

Like this:

For every cup of cherry juice I add to a large pot, I add 2 cups of sugar (I know that sounds like a lot, but you are not eating this stuff with a spoon! -hopefully!).

I usually do no more than 3 cups of juice and 6 cups of sugar at a time, because I want there to be plenty of room for the syrup to boil. Watching the syrup mixture vigilantly (if it boils over, it really makes a sticky mess on your stove) and stirring to get the sugar incorporated, I bring it to a soft boil and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. Then I pour it into jars, leaving about an inch of head space. Once the syrup is completely cooled, it can be frozen and used in pancakes or as a simple syrup for Shirley Temples or Cherry Vodka Tonics (I'll let you decide which I prefer).

I usually make at least one batch of jelly with the cherry juice, too...but that is another post...

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Jul 13, 2023

I think that's the tree I learned to climb trees in, eating all those juicy cherries... This is so much work! No wonder it's so yummy.

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