Canning fruits and vegetables allows you to preserve fresh produce and enjoy them year round, and it’s growing in popularity, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five American households can their own produce, which is rather remarkable considering how readily available most foods are in the grocery store. Cherries are ideal for canning because they hold up well, the canning process is fairly simple and the cherries themselves are packed with nutrients like vitamins A and C.
Select cherries that are freshly harvested and fully ripened. Look for slightly firm fruit that has a deep, uniform color, with no bruises or spoiling. In terms of quantity, you’ll need about 11 pounds of cherries per canner load of 9 pints.
Stem and wash the cherries, and remove the pits if desired. Prick the sides of the cherries with a needle if you leave the pits in to prevent them from splitting. If pits are removed, place the cherries into a bowl of cold water with ascorbic acid or vitamin C tablets to keep them from discoloring. Wash your jars and prepare the lids according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Bring water and apple juice to a boil in a large pot. Add drained cherries and return to a boil. Fill the jars with the cherries and cooking liquid, leaving a half-inch of headspace. Place the lids on the jars, twisting on the screw bands to secure.
Preheat a boiling water canner that is half full of water to about 180 degrees and place the cans onto the canning rack one at a time. Add water until jars are covered by about an inch, and put the cover on the canner.
Heat the water to boiling and allow pint jars to process for 15 to 20 minutes. If using a pressure canner, place the jars with sealed lids on the rack with about 2 inches of water, fasten the lid and turn to high heat. Allow to steam for 10 minutes, then add the weight gauge to pressurize the canner. Process for approximately 5 to 10 minutes before removing from heat and allowing the canner to de-pressurize.
Remove jars carefully with a jar-lifter and allow to cool on a towel. Do not retighten the lids. After 12 to 24 hours of cooling at room temperature, remove the screw-on portion of the lid to check the seals. If the seal is tight and the center indented, store the jars in a cool, dark place. If the seal is not intact and the center is popped up, check for your jar for defectiveness. Replace if necessary and reprocess to seal the jars correctly.
Store canned cherries safely for up to one year, and ensure that lids are properly sealed when opening a new jar.