We used to have a sour cherry tree. I didn't know it when we bought our property; after we had been here for a few months, my father-in-law wet out back gleefully and started eating off what I was sure was a tree with ornamental berries. When he informed us we were the proud owners of a pie cherry tree, I started preserving cherries in earnest.
Alas, a couple of years ago, our cherry tree was hit by lightening. It survived another year, with one pathetic limb leafing out and bearing fruit, until it fell over in another storm.
This year, I purchased cherries from the farm market. I got five heaping pints for $3.50 a pint, which was actually enough to freeze 6 pints worth. If you want to do this yourself, it is easy:
- Wash and pit cherries. That tool you see in the bowl of pitted cherries above is a pitter; you just place the cherry in the little pocket, then close the tool to drive the spike through the cherry, taking the pit with you. This tool is great if you are going to do a few pints to a few quarts every year; if you are planning on a cherry production in the bushels, you may want a different tool built for volume. If you don't have a pitter, you can do the job with a paper clip or your thumb fingernail.
- Coat the cherries in cane sugar at the rate of about 3/4 cup to a quart of cherries. You want enough to coat but not overwhelm.
- Place in storage containers, label, and freeze.
Fast: Pitting cherries takes some time, but I still put up these six pints in about an hour.
Cheap: No doubt these cherries are more expensive than canned prepared pie filling from the store, but they will be cheaper than the "fresh" imports from California or whereever in the middle of winter.
Good: Once you make a pie with cherries you put up in summery, you'll never go back to the industrial crap covered in HFCS.