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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Canned cherry pie filling

Well, just as I was getting into the groove of cherry, cherry, cherry (Doesn't that make you want to test your luck at a slot machine)...

It was time to pick up our weekly box from AHO. In the newsletter, it was explained that the stone fruits are all ripening with lightning speed. This timing is compounded with two facts: One is that these are organic fruits (and therefore haven't been treated with any sort of fungicide). The other is that there was a big, unexpected rain recently (and although I don't understand exactly why, this was bad timing for the ripening fruits). Altogether, this all adds up to the fact that these babies can go from ripe to mush very very quickly. You have to be ready to grab and eat them during a very small window.

For this reason, the farmer sent out crates of extra fruit. That way, anyone who had some bad pieces could help themselves to extra/replacement pieces.

I got to the pick-up site at the tail end of the time slot for picking up the produce. Lucky me! The gal who coordinates the produce pick-up asked me to take as many apricots as I thought I could possibly use. There were still tons left and no one else to claim them.

So, I got a big box and filled it up pretty well. From what I can estimate, I must have gotten 16 pounds or so of apricots.

Remember, though, that these apricots have no fungicides, and go from ripe to rotten at lightning speed.

That put me into a tailspin. Now I had a fridge full of cherries that were picked at the last moments of ripening, and a huge box of apricots on the counter, threatening to turn into a box of mush at any second.

Let's just say that cherry week needed to come to an abrupt end. Which means that coming up real soon is apricot week. I am chomping at the bit to make apricot syrup, and we'll see what else happens!

I decided to quickly turn the remaining cherries into cherry pie filling and get it canned, so that I can use it later for pies. Won't I be happy to have a cherry pie next winter?

If you want do this too, use the recipe for filling that I used here, and double or triple (or more?) it as you need. I had so many cherries that aren't going to last long, that I made enough for 3 more pies. Of course, there are many other uses for cherry pie filling... topping ice cream, garnishing cheesecake, making hand-held pocket pies, and layering with yogurt and graham cracker crumbs are some of my favorites.

Once the pie filling is done, put it into jars to store. A batch of enough filling for one pie just about perfectly fills 2 pint jars.

After filling the jars, go ahead and preserve them.

Fill each jar to 1/4 inch from the top. Wipe the edges of the jar clean. Place a lid on each jar, and screw on the band until it is finger-tip tight. Place the jars into a large pot of water, and boil for 10 minutes. (for higher elevations, check this chart for processing times). The water level needs to be 1-2 inches above the top of the jars. After 10 minutes, remove from the water using a jar lifter (or tongs). Let them sit, undisturbed for 12-24 hours. You will know if they are properly sealed if you press on the lid and it doesn't give at all.

This way, you have home-made cherry pie filling any time you need it!

*This post is dedicated to my friend, Sue. She's my cherry pie filling inspiration.