Summer is in full swing, and that means plenty of one of the tastiest little summer fruits: cherries! Over the past two weeks or so, we’ve gone through several pounds of cherries. Most were eaten in the rinse-and-devour method, though on the Fourth of July I made the classic sweet cherry pie (using this crust recipe) I’ve made during the past few summers. This week, candied cherries made their Summer 2012 debut. On difficulty level, between simply eating cherries and making a pie, these candied cherries fall somewhere in between. It’s essentially a homemade version of maraschino cherries but it seems blasphemous to compare the two. Just look at the colors: florescent red vs. deep magenta. Then, of course, there’s the taste.
I first made candied cherries two summers ago (a gem of a recipe from David Lebovitz I found thumbing through this book from the library), and they’ve been added to the permanent summer rotation. Think about how cherries taste, then imagine that concentrated times infinity. The cherries are tender yet still have a little bite, and the sweet, sweet syrup is cherry essence. If there’s any way cherries could taste more like cherries, this is it.
If that doesn’t make you as pumped as I am for these, here’s another selling point: they keep for at least 6 months in the fridge, so you can enjoy cherries in the middle of winter. Fear not; no formal canning process (sterilization, boiling, etc.) required. Make a jar, be astonished when they disappear, and repeat as needed.
adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert
Makes about 2 cups (250 ml)
2 cups (12 ounces / 340 grams) sweet cherries, pitted (quick and easy using my secret weapon)
1 cup (250 ml) water or apple juice (I’ve always used water)
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon slice, optional
1/8 teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon Amaretto
In a large saucepan (at least 3 quarts–it bubbles a lot), combine the cherries, water, sugar, and lemon juice. Throw in a lemon slice if you want. Cook over medium-high heat at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally so the syrup doesn’t stick to the bottom and sides, until the cherries are tender and the juices are reduced, syrupy, and thickened to about the consistency of maple syrup, about 15-20 minutes. I use a candy thermometer so I know exactly when it’s done–220°F. Usually it shoots up to about 210° pretty quickly, then stays around there for over 10 minutes, gradually reaching 220°. Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract or Amaretto, which accentuates the cherry flavor. Transfer the cherries to a jar. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate.
Storing: The cherries and syrup will keep for at least 6 months in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
Serving: My favorite way to eat these candied cherries is as a topping for plain yogurt. It’s a homemade, much more delicious version of fruit on the bottom (or top, in this case) yogurt. But there are no limits! These are also great on ice cream and sorbets. Or use them to top any sort of baked good–biscuits, scones, pancakes, waffles, and even toast or toasted bagels or English muffins. Stir the syrup into lemonade or other drinks, make Shirley Temples, or whirl into smoothies. Lebovitz suggests them as an addition to fruit crisps, drained and folded into ice cream, and over lemon desserts. Or you can just eat them on a spoon