Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Greetings from suburban Freakinhotadelphia. When the heat index climbed to 115 yesterday - and this ain't no dry heat, friends - we caved and installed our second window air conditioner. We can now shut off three of the main living spaces (like many big old houses, ours has multiple doors off of each room) and remain in relative comfort. Leaving the now-cooled Pullman-style rooms requires yanking open a paint- and heat-swollen door to the sounds of everyone else yelling, "Shut the door!" and gasping for air like a carnival goldfish being transferred from its baggie.

But now the kitchen, dining room and living room are cooler and comfortable, if somewhat messier, what with the toys, books, and DVD that have emigrated from the house's uncooled areas. Having the newly cooly inviting kitchen I decided to can the four pounds of cherries that I pitted over the weekend. Because they were already pitted, the entire operation was a short one - maybe 20 minutes, not including processing. And, cherries are one of the very easy fruits to process, because their liquid can be syrup, fruit juice or water. I used the soaking water in which I stored the pitted fruit in the fridge, and which had a bit of lime juice added to it to help preserve color. So, even more than pickles or jam, cherries are an easy-peasy project for novice canners, using as little as the fruit and water.

I gave my love a cherry.... Jeez. I hate it when I'm a sucker for the obvious joke. Ah, well.

You know how, on The New Yankee Workshop, Norm Abram always interrupts the project of the day to remind his viewers to always read the instructions that come with their power tools and to wear safety goggles? Here's the Hot Water Bath version of that PSA: Every box of canning jars comes with basic canning instructions. Be sure to read and understand them before you're standing in front of a pot of boiling sugar syrup, jam or pickling brine. You can also read this for an excellent primer on the subject. Don't worry, it's not as involved as it looks, you just need to be a little careful and, once you get the hang of it, you, too, can put up eight half-pints of cherries in about 20 minutes.

Good? Good.

To save range space, I sterilized my jars in the oven and simmered the rings and lids. Because I had decided to use the water and lime juice mixture as the canning liquid, so drained the cherries into a pot, added a couple cups of water to make sure that I had enough, and brought the liquid to boil. The cherries themselves were raw packed (that is, put into the jars without heating) and had the boiling liquid added to within a half an inch of the rims. A quick wipe of the rims with a paper towel dipped in the water simmering with the lids, placement of the lids themselves and a good tightening, and the only thing left to do was wait for the canner to come to a good boil. The four pounds of pitted cherries resulted in 7 half-pints of canned fruit. Yum!

Now. What to do with it all? I'm not totally sure. I bet they'd be really great on ice cream, drained or cooked in syrup and with a little Frangelico added in. And I've never eaten cherry crisp, but it sounds great and even better without the commercial pie filling. They could be drained and chopped for muffins, or to add to pancake batter or salads or goodness knows what else. Hmmm...what else?

So that was my evening. What did you do?

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