If you love cherries, now is your time of the year. Ripe, sweet, juicy. Plenty of them, even here in Texas, and at great prices.
I couldn’t resist. I had to get
about a ton several bags and make pepper jelly with them. With pineapple or peaches added. Pineapples remain at all-time low prices hereabouts; my last one, ripe and ready, cost a whole 99 cents. And the peaches! Big displays of them for under a buck a pound, with an aroma that you could sense throughout the store. No better advertising than a compelling peach aroma! I loaded up the cart and headed to the checkout.
Then the real problem hit me. It’s not skinning the pineapple, I’ve got that down to a science. Freestone peaches are easy too. No, it’s getting all those pits out of the cherries. One at a time…
I finally fixed the problem by
bribing and cajoling convincing PJ, Kai and daughterperson that they would all benefit from assisting me with the pitting marathon. The wailing and gnashing was bearable, mostly by focusing on the wonderful results about to appear: jars and jars of tasty pepper jelly.
How do we pit our cherries? It’s a simple, two-step process, once the cherries are rinsed and placed into big bowls. First, I cut a small X across the bottom of the cherry, then I remove the stem as I pass the prepared cherry to the next big bowl. From there, the pit master takes a cherry and places it, X down, on top of an empty wine bottle. (I won’t expand on the step where the wine bottle got empty.) Using the wider end of a chopstick, the pit is simply pushed out of the cherry and into the bottle.
The next fun part was preparing the fruit for pepper jelly. For the first batch I made pineapple-cherry-habanero. In my new Ninja Mega Kitchen System food processor. PJ got me one for my birthday, and it’s amazing! I’ll write a full review later; just know that my kitchen got a whole lot better with my Ninja to hand.
I used my standard recipe for the pepper jellies. I topped a half-dozen or so habaneros and dropped them into the Ninja’s food processor bowl, with a couple of ounces of cherry juice. I then added a small amount of pineapple and put the processor on speed 2, “Blend.” A few seconds of that and the habs were down to tiny bits. Then I tossed in about a pound of pineapple and topped off with cherries, just to lid level. I processed at speed 1, “Dough,” and quickly the fruit was down into the consistency I like: all small bits, but not puréed.
With the kitchen set for pepper jelly making and the canner simmering away, I put the fruit into the trusty jelly pot with 2.5 cups granulated sugar, two droppers of liquid stevia concentrate, a cup of lemon juice, another 6 ounces of cherry juice, and my secret blend of spices. (Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves; but don’t tell anyone, okay? It’s a secret!) As that came up to temperature I prepared about 3 ounces of Ball powdered pectin in 3-4 ounces of sugar. With the jelly boiling strongly, I spread the pectin mix quickly over the top and stirred like crazy.
The pectin takes effect quickly if there’s good acid and plenty of heat. A test of the gel at 2 minutes showed the jelly was ready for canning. I ladled the slurry into hot jars, placed the lids and rings on, then into the canner they went. Ten minutes later I had nine beautiful half-pints cooling on a dishtowel.
Since the canner was already hot I recycled the pots and dishes quickly and got ready for the next batch. I put a couple of peaches (no stone, of course) into the Ninja with 8-9 habaneros and topped full of cherries. I actually made two batches this way, netting 16 half-pints of that tasty jelly. Quite zesty too, but not too bad.
The last batch of the day, I used only cherries and habaneros. Toned down on the chiles a bit too, to be sure I could taste all the cherry flavor. In all, I bagged 33 jars of cherry goodness, with nearly another jar in collected bits from the batches. There’s always a bit left in the bottom of the pot, you see. Not enough for a new jar, but certainly I wouldn’t through it away! The collected pot heels go right into the fridge for breakfast the next day…
The (Cherry Jelly) Heat is ON!
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