Cherries – A Sweet Treat
It’s the season for cherries. I picked tart cherries off a tree at the Brown County UW-Extension Office this morning in preparation for a fruit canning class next week. I have been enjoying bing cherries now available in the grocery store. While cherries are quite tasty they also have many health benefits.
Cherries are considered among the top 20 foods with the highest concentration of antioxidants. Antioxidants occur naturally in some foods and may protect cells in the body from future damage. Cherries have many different antioxidants.
This fruit may help relieve discomfort related to arthritis and gout because they contain anthocyanins. Cherries act as pain relievers by blocking inflammatory enzymes which may help to reduce pain.
Cherries contain melatonin, a natural hormone in the body which helps control when we fall asleep and wake up. Not only does melatonin aid in falling asleep, but it also supports and maintains brain function. Anthocyanins may protect cells found in the brain and promote brain health as well.
While cherry season is relatively short, they can be preserved. To freeze cherries, rinse them thoroughly stem and remove the pit. I place them on paper towels to absorb some of the moisture and then place on a cookie sheet in a single layer. After the cookie tray has been in the freezer for a couple of hours, I place the cherries in a freezer bag and they can be kept frozen for several months. By using this method, the cherries are easier to break apart when frozen. I often will make cherry jam or canned cherry pie filling in the winter as gifts for neighbors and colleagues.
Cherries can also be canned. Stem and wash cherries, remove pits if desired. After removing pits, I often will place the cherries in a commercial ascorbic acid mixture which can be bought at the grocery store or crushed vitamin C tablet dissolved in water works. This prevents the area where the pit was removed from turning brown. If cherries are canned unpitted, prick the skins on opposite sides with a clean needle to prevent splitting.
Cherries may be canned in water, apple juice, white grape juice or water/sugar syrup. Whatever liquid you use, heat to boiling.
To raw pack, fill jars to ½ inch from top with drained cherries, shaking down gently as you fill. Add hot liquid leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a metal knife. Wipe jar rims. Place lid and ring in place. Process pints or quarts in boiling water bath canner for 25 minutes. Enjoy!