I try my best to stick to only buying produce in season, other than some very rare occasions, and even when they are in season, I wait till the peak of the season so prices are reasonable. Therefore, I had cherries for the first time this year the other day.
I got a bunch of cherries, and it was so exciting... but they were past prime, and I knew they wouldn't last long at all.
Nothing like waiting so long for a taste of these delicious fruit and have them spoil on you! So I decided that, while I'd save some fresh to have as is, the rest I'd process so that I can use them at a later date, even if that later date is only in a few more days, without them spoiling first.
Clincher? I really wanted to get the house clean by the time my husband came home, so didn't want to do anything that was overly time consuming or overly messy, that would make it harder to meet my goal of a clean house.
And, I wanted to have some variety, not do the same thing with all the cherries.
And I wanted them to be versatile, so I didn't have to decide now what I'd be doing with them; I just wanted to make a base that I can then play around when when I am ready to do so.
I wanted to make whatever it is that I made, healthy.
And I wanted the most yield for the amount of cherries I started with, so that means dehydrated cherry anything wasn't going to happen, so no cherry raisins or cherry leather, delicious as they are.
So first what I did was remove the pits from a bunch of cherries. I filled a bag with them, then froze them, to use in things like pie or crumble or I'm not sure what specifically, but things that I'd want individual cherry pieces for. Maybe also smoothies. But it was a real pain to do.
So then I decided I wasn't pitting any more cherries. Instead, I was going to do things with them whole, and only pit them if there was a problem with the cherries that needed to be cut out, and then if I was already cutting them, then I took out the seeds. So from then on, only whole cherries other than the problematic ones, which I then salvaged what I could from them, and then used them to fill another freezer bag.
I filled a pot with whole cherries, added a bit of liquid, covered them, and cooked them down. They released their own juices and cooked down to a mash, which I then strained, and put the liquid, a delicious cherry juice, into a bottle. I still have to decide what I'll do with this- syrup or soda or some other sauce- I'm open to suggestions, especially now that my mulberry syrup is running low.
I thought it would be simple to push the fruit mash through a strainer, leaving the pits behind... but alas, it didn't want to cooperate, so instead what I did was pick out every single seed from there! A pain! But eventually I had this mash left with no seeds, which I am freezing, to use later, again not sure what for. Maybe chutney. Maybe sugar free healthy jam. Maybe pie filling. Maybe ice cream even. We'll see.
With all those seeds I picked out from the cherry mash, I wanted to make some infused alcohol, but didn't have any vodka (my brother bought me some when he was in Russia, since it is really cheap there and a fortune here, but I'm only seeing him in a couple of days), so decided to try this with brandy. If I assume correctly, this will end up having a flavor that is a cross between cherry flavored and almonds, which I can then use for mixed drinks.
And then lastly- canned whole cherries! I absolutely adore canned cherries and sometimes buy them, but do wish it could be without white sugar, so I decided to can these in a light syrup made with jaggery syrup. I raw packed these- simply filled the jars with them whole, pushed them in, and filled it 3/4 of the way with a somewhat sweet syrup made from jaggery and water, then water bath canned them, processing them so that they were at a rolling boil for 30 minutes.
P.S. I managed to do this and STILL get the place clean before my husband came home, so that was awesome!
Now that my cherries are taken care of and I don't have to worry about them spoiling on me, now I can decide what I want to do with them. Suggestions?
While I did these with cherries, you can do what I did with pretty much any fruit you get your hands on, especially if they're past prime and you don't want to have to worry about them spoiling before you can enjoy them.
Do you preserve fruit or vegetables? What is your preservation method of choice? Do you make a bunch of one kind of thing, or do you tend to vary it up? What have you preserved last?