Sour Cherry Preserves

We worked all weekend to put up cherries. First, here’s our recipe. Afterwards, our step-by-step photos and this year’s haul (23 pounds in one picking!)

Sour Cherry Preserves

Yield: About 12 (4-ounce) jars.

Sour Cherry Preserves


  • 4 pounds (about 4 1/2 to 5 quarts) sour cherries
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups sugar (depending on the sweetness of the cherries)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. If you have a canning pot, use that. Fill up a big pot with water and set it on to boil. Add a little vinegar to the water so the glass jars stay clear. If you don’t, they sometimes get a little film on them. Add your glass jars and lids. You don’t need to add the screw bands. Once the water is boilng, add your jars, return to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes, or keep them in there until you’re ready to can.
  2. Put three or four small plates in the freezer.
  3. Wash, stem and pit cherries. It takes about 15 minutes per quart.
  4. Put cherries and lemon juice in a stockpot, then sprinkle a quarter cup sugar on top. Stir until it dissolves.
  5. Add the rest of the sugar in batches — three is good — and stir until it dissolves.
  6. Bring the cherries to a boil. Wait for the foam to float to the top. Skim it off, like you would chicken stock. Let the cherry mixture cook about 30 to 40 minutes, until it’s thickened.
  7. Meanwhile, if you haven’t sterlized your jars yet, do that now.
  8. When the preserves are at 220 degrees, you perform the gel test. (I’ll be honest... sometimes I do this before then. It seems to take forever.) Take a plate out of the freezer and put some cherry juice on it. Put it back in the freezer for a minute. Then stick your finger in it.
  9. If it wrinkles, you’re done. If the preserves are too thin, your finger marks won’t stay.
  10. If the preserves are ready, use canning tongs to take your jars out of the boiling water. Place a widemouth canning funnel over the jar and ladle jam in to about 1/4 inch from the top.
  11. Make sure the edge of the jar is clean. You may need to wipe it off. Then put your lid on. Screw the top on. Put the jam jars back in the boiling water and process for 10 minutes.
  12. Then take them out and let them cool. As they do, you'll hear the little “pop” of the lid sealing.

Our original recipe is here: Sour Cherry Preserves.

A few numbers for you:

3 1/2 hours to pick. (Greg did nearly all of it).


It took us 7 man-hours to pit: 4 total, and Greg worked 1/2 hour longer than I did.

For the preserves:

23 pounds pre pitted
19 cups sugar
13 ounces lemon juice


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