Port-Preserved Oregon Cherries

With the abundance of scrumptious Oregon cherries available at our farmer's markets this season, I couldn't help but preserve some for those cool winter days to come.  Below is the recipe I used if you'd like to save some for yourself!  What you'll need to make 6 - 7.4 fl oz glass Weck "tulip" jars and 1 - 91.3 fl oz glass Weck "tulip" jar of preserved cherries:

Equipment

The jars named above or your favorite jars (same combined volume)

(1) 12-quart Stainless Steel Pot (for sterilizing and processing)

(1) Large Heavy Bottomed Pot (I used a #30 Le Creuset, spooned off the foam and there was still some over-flow)

(2) 4-quart Large Glass Bowls

(1) Paring Knife

(1) Cherry Pitter (optional)

(1) Jar Lifter

(1) Canner Rack

(1) Long-Handled Tongs

(1) Firm Heat Safe Spatula

(1) Ladle

(1) Large Tablespoon (for filling smaller jars)

(2) Clean Kitchen Towels (I use flour sack towels)

(1) Clean Cloth for Wiping Jars

Ingredients

- 5 lbs cherries - ripe, red and sweet from your farmer's market if you can get them

- 32 oz Honey - I used NW Wildflower from Trader Joe's

- 1 1/2 Cup Tawny Port

- 1 Cinnamon Stick, whole

- 1 Vanilla Bean, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scraped with back of knife -or- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

- 1 Spice Sachet that includes 3 Star Anise and 5 Cloves, whole

- 2-3 pinches of finely grated Orange Zest - I use a microplane zester

1.  Place a canner rack in the bottom of a 12-quart stainless steel pot, fill it with water and bring to a boil.  Follow standard canning procedure for sterilizing six 7.4 fl oz glass Weck "tulip" jars and a 91.3 fl oz glass Weck "tulip" jar.  (go to the National Center for Home Preservation website for complete instructions)  You can find Weck jars HERE for purchase or use your own favorites (same combined volumes).   Leaving space between each, place the sterilized jars, lids and rings onto a flat surface lined with a clean kitchen towel.

2. While the pot of water is coming to a boil, soak the whole cherries in one of the large 4-quart glass bowls filled with filtered water and about 1/4 cup distilled vinegar for about 15 minutes to disinfect.  

2. After disinfecting, cut the cherries in half with a paring knife, remove pits and place them into the other large 4-quart glass bowl filled with only filtered water.

3. When all the cherries have been halved and pitted, strain away the filtered water and transfer them into a large cooking pot along with the remaining ingredients.

4. Bring the cherries to a moderate boil, stirring regularly for 15-20 minutes.  During this time, the cherries will release their juices and soften, the juice will become concentrated and begin to thicken and the spices will bloom and flavor the liquid.  Cooking time may vary based on your individual preference toward a thicker or thinner syrup.

5. Remove the pot of cherries from the heat, remove and discard the spice sachet, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and carefully ladle or spoon the cherries and syrup into the jars leaving 1/4 - 1/2" clearance from the rim of each jar.

6. Wipe the rim and sides with a clean cloth.  (I dip a corner of the cloth into the boiling water, ring it out, and wipe)

7.  Using the tongs, hold each of the rings in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes before placing them onto the tops of the jars.  Place the glass lids over the rings carefully aligning ring to jar and lid to ring.  Clamp each lid with two canning clamps across the lid from one another.  The Weckjars.com describes this process in detail HERE

8.  Using the jar lifter, place the first 4 small jars carefully onto the rack in the pot of boiling water to process.  (there should be an inch or two of water over the jars) I processed these for 30 minutes.  Remove the first batch and place them onto a flat surface lined with a clean kitchen towel to cool.

9.  At this point you will likely need to add more water to your pot and bring it back up to a boil.  Keep in mind that you will be processing the larger jar this time and will need to gauge how much water to add to the pot considering the weight of the larger jar will make the water rise some when the jar is submerged.  (remember there should be 1-2 inches of water over the lid of the largest jar in the pot while processing)  Using the jar lifter, place the 2 remaining small jars and the large jar carefully onto the rack in the pot of boiling water to process.   Again, I processed these for 30 minutes.  Remove the second batch and place them, along with the first batch, onto the flat surface lined with a clean kitchen towel to cool.

10.  Enjoy a nice glass of that tawny port while your cherries are cooling and look forward to the changing seasons!

Cheers!