Amazingly delicious, morello cherries are packed with essential nutrients, and are associated with a number of unique health benefits. This wonderful little superfruit is now becoming a part of many health drinks and diets. Tastessence presents some easy ways of preserving morello cherries.
Did You Know?
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that sour cherries ranked 14 in the top 50 foods for highest antioxidant content per serve.
Sweet cherry (Prunus avium) and sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) are species that belong to the sub-genus Cerasus (cherries) of the genus Prunus. Sour cherry is also known as wild cherry, tart cherry, and dwarf cherry. The dark-red morello cherry and the lighter-red amarelle cherry are two varieties of the sour cherry. Sour cherry trees are popular amongst gardeners because they suffer from fewer pests and diseases as compared to sweet cherry trees. And unlike the sweet cherry varieties, sour cherries are self fertile (self pollenizing). These trees require cold weather and well-drained soil. They grow well in most temperate latitudes. A well-maintained tree can produce more than 100 pounds of fruit per season.
Like berries, cherries are also packed with health-promoting, cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Very few natural foods contain the hormone melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle and acts as a mood enhancer. Sour cherries are a good source of this hormone. Most tart cherries are not consumed as fresh fruit, but they are perfect for stuff like jams, pies, ice creams, juices, etc. They can be preserved and consumed as and when required.
What is a Morello Cherry?
The sour cherry is native to Europe and southwest Asia. The most well-known variety is the morello. It is a late flowering variety, and produces a mahogany red (crimson-to-near-black) fruit, which is more acidic than the common sweet cherry. It can be eaten fresh when fully ripe (when it turns nearly black). The red flesh or the dark red juice are very attractive and tempting. These cherries are tangy, rather than sour. When cooked, morellos impart a strong-rich cherry flavor to the dish.
In most parts of Europe, morellos ripen late in July or early August. Cherries are harvested when ripe; they do not ripen off the tree. Here are some easy ways for preserving morello cherries.
How to Preserve Morello Cherries
➺ To make a jam or spread from these cherries, remove the stems and wash the cherries thoroughly. You can use a pitter or a stoner for pitting the cherries.
➺ Add some lemon juice to water and keep the pitted cherries in that water for some time. This prevents discoloration.
➺ You can chop the cherries or grind them if you wish. Whole cherries (or cherries cut in halves) may not form a consistent jam. They are likely to remain suspended in the sugar solution.
➺ Bake the cherries in an oven or cook them along with sugar. If you have 4 cups of cherries, take 4 cups of sugar (if the cherries are sour). Add some pectin. Let the mixture boil. Simmer, and remove it from heat as it thickens.
➺ If you want, you can add some more pectin to the mixture, when the cherries are cooked. Boil the mixture again.
➺ It is better to remove the layer of foam on the surface of the mixture, before pouring it into an air-tight jar. It can lead to bacterial contamination and can reduce the shelf-life of the fruit.
➺ Keep the jar in a cool, dark place, or refrigerate it. Once opened, it should be refrigerated and consumed within a week or so.
Morello Cherries in Syrup
➺ To make the syrup, add 3.75 cups of sugar to 8.25 cups of water and boil.
➺ Simmer, for about 5 minutes.
➺ If you are going to fill the cherries and syrup in pint or quart freezer bags, then add one cup of syrup to each quart of cherries. Leave some space at the top of the bags. Squeeze out the air and seal the bags.
➺ You may pour the cherries and the syrup in jars. Clean the rim, adjust the lid, and seal it.
➺ Process the jars by placing them into a pressure canner.
Morellos in Kirschwasser
➺ Morellos in kirschwasser is a simple and easy way of preserving the cherries. If you have a morello cherry jar (12 oz), drain the cherries, place them in a bowl.
➺ Keep the juice aside.
➺ Add one cup of sugar, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and some lemon zest to the cherries. Let the mixture stand for half an hour.
➺ Pour the cherry juice in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add some pectin to it. Boil the mixture for a couple of minutes.
➺ Then add the cherries, 1 tablespoon kirschwasser, and a pinch of salt to the boiling juice. Let the mixture boil for 4 – 5 minutes.
➺ Remove it from the stove and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, pour it into an air-tight jar. You can use this mixture for different sauces, vinaigrette, dessert topping, pastry filling, etc.
➺ Kirschwasser (cherry water / liqueur, also known as kirsch in America) is a colorless fruit brandy. Traditionally, it is made from double distillation of morello cherries. The kirsch liqueur making process takes a year to complete, but you would enjoy making your own kirschwasser at home.
➺ Remove the stems, clean the cherries and remove the pits.
➺ Take a wide-mouthed glass jar and place a layer of cherries in it. Cover this layer with a layer of granulated sugar. Then again, place a layer of cherries and cover it with sugar. You would need about one pound of granulated sugar for two pounds of cherries.
➺ Continue adding layers of cherries and sugar, and when the jar is full, place the lid and refrigerate the jar.
➺ Next day, take out the jar and add a bottle of unflavored vodka to it. Keep the mixture away from sunlight, in a cool dark place in a shelf.
➺ Everyday, without opening the lid, shake the mixture well. After 6 months, strain the liqueur from the jar into another clean glass jar that has an airtight lid. Your kirsch is ready!
➺ Store this kirsch liqueur in the refrigerator for another 6 months. Aging would make it perfect. You may sip it on the rocks, can add it to sparkling wine/cola, or can use it as a dessert topping. It is used in black forest cake, and as a topping or filling for tarts.
Morello Cherry Sauce
➺ To make morello cherry sauce, take one liter water and add one cup of sugar to it.
➺ Heat it, when the sugar dissolves, add about 180 g of pitted cherries to it.
➺ Add some lemon zest and two small pieces of cinnamon. Let the mixture boil. Simmer it for 20 – 25 minutes.
➺ It will become thick and syrupy.
➺ Remove it from the heat. Add four teaspoons of lemon juice and two teaspoons of brandy.
➺ Let it cool down. Store it in a jar and serve it over ice-creams.
Drying in an Oven
➺ To dry the cherries, cut the cherries in halves and remove the pits.
➺ Spread them on a paper napkin to dry, or pat them dry with a napkin.
➺ Place them on baking sheets, with pit cavity up. Leave some space in between two cherries.
➺ For the first 3 – 4 hours, let the temperature be 165 degrees F.
➺ After about 3 – 4 hours, you will see the cherries shriveling. Reduce the temperature to 135 degrees F.
➺ After about 16 – 24 hours of heating, cherries would be completely dehydrated. When done, they would look like raisins. Try squeezing a couple of cherries. No liquid should come out.
➺ The dehydrated cherries would be somewhat sticky and a little bit harder too.
Drying in the Sun
➺ If you live in a region which receives ample sunlight, you can dry the cherries in the sun.
➺ Place the cleaned, dry cherries on the trays, and cover them with a cheesecloth (to avoid dust, insects, etc.).
➺ Leave them in the sun for 3 – 4 days. If the humidity and the temperature are suitable, you will get naturally dehydrated cherries within 4 days. Store them in airtight containers away from direct light or heat.
Drying in a Dehydrator
➺ After pitting, place the cherries in ice-cream trays. Cover them with a little sugar, and freeze. Frozen cherries dry better and faster.
➺ Next day, take them out and let them thaw out. They might take one whole day for this.
➺ Hand squeeze the cherries and store the juice in a glass bottle. Refrigerate it and use it whenever you want.
➺ Place a wax paper at the bottom of your dehydrator. Spread the cherries on racks.
➺ At 135 degrees F., the cherries would dry completely. It might take about 16 – 24 hours to complete the process.
➺ The time taken to dry the cherries may vary according to the type of dehydrator used. It will also depend upon the moisture in the cherries. 1 Kg of dried morello cherries is equivalent to around 17 Kg of fresh cherries.
Canning Morello Cherries
➺ Cherries can be canned in water, apple juice, white grape juice, or syrup. If you want to use a syrup, use heavy syrup (3.25 cups of sugar added to 5 cups of water will give you about 6.5 cups of syrup) for sour cherries.
➺ To avoid discoloration of the stem-end, place the pitted cherries in water containing ascorbic acid. (Add 1 teaspoon or 3 g of ascorbic acid to 1 gallon of water.)
➺ Place the drained cherries in a large sauce pan, add the syrup, and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid into a jar, leaving ½” headspace. Clean the top edge of the jar and adjust the lid. Process in a boiling water bath or pressure canner.
➺ There exist different ways of canning. You can get the cherries canned at a professional canning unit. You are supposed to process (boil) the jars longer at higher altitudes than sea level. Larger jars also need to be processed for an extended period of time.
Refrigerated fresh cherries should be consumed within 3 days. Canned or dehydrated cherries can be kept for a year or so. You can use them for topping desserts and yogurts, garnishing salads, enriching your breakfast cereal, or you can even incorporate them in pies and cakes.