If you have a Fowlers Vacola preserving kit, the whole process is easy, particularly if you have a thermostat controlled model. However, if you don’t have a preserver at all, you can still preserve by using a large pot on the stove in which case you will need to buy a food thermometer so that you can regulate the temperature. (Instructions are provided at the end of this blog if needed).
The cherries can be preserved in syrup of varying strengths, or even plain water. Honey can be used in place of the sugar, but it must be mild flavoured and you need only half the amount. You can use brown or raw sugar, but it can tend to overpower the flavour of the fruit. I usually use medium syrup to preserve cherries, made by dissolving 300g white sugar in 200ml boiling water, then adding 300ml cold water. You make it up in these proportions to whatever amount you need to fill your bottles.
There are several types of jars that can be used to preserve in this way. You can use Fowlers jars and there are now screw top preserving jars also in a variety of brand names.
- Wash and rinse the bottles, ring and lids.
- Prepare the preserving syrup of choice.
- Place the rings on the bottles, ensuring that the ring is not twisted.
- Wash cherries and remove stalks and pack neatly into bottles.
- Fill the jar to the top with the prepared preserving liquid
- Place lid evenly on jar, then the clips to secure. Alternatively, if using screw top preserving jars, screw the lid on as usual, the release half a turn.
- Place jars in preserver.
- Fill preserver to just below the lids with cool water.
- Bring slowly up to 85°C (over about 45 minutes), then hold at this temperature for one hour and ten minutes.
- Remove bottles from preserver and stand on a board or towel on a bench top.
- Leave to stand undisturbed until completely cold (approximately 24 hours).
- If clips were used on bottles, remove them – the bottles should be sealed.
Using a stove top preserver
If you do not have a thermostat-controlled unit (e.g. if you have an older stove-top unit) and hence need to watch a thermometer during processing, it should take approximately 45 minutes to reach the specified temperature, then hold there for the remainder of the time. Bring the temperature to 85°C over a period of 45 minutes, then hold at this temperature for 1 hour and ten minutes.
Preserving cherries without a preserving outfit
You can use a large pot on top of the stove – you will need to sit a rack on the bottom on which the jars can sit. Place the filled jars on this and fill to just under the lids with cool water. Place lid on the pot and heat slowly, taking 45 minutes or more, until it reaches 85°C, then hold at this temperature for one hour and ten minutes.