Cherry On Top .
It's befitting that I should make cherry butter on my father's birthday. He is a bona fide cherry fiend. Cherry pie, black cherry ice cream, cherry salsa, chocolate covered cherries . . . Perhaps it is because he was born in late July, peak season in Michigan for cherries, that cherries are so near and dear to his heart. Or perhaps it was just good luck.
We Michiganders take our cherries very seriously. Second only to Turkey, the United States (specifically Michigan) produces more cherries than anywhere else. We have an entire industry dedicated to the sweet, tart treat. I have memories of stopping in at the CHERRY HUT for lunch and pie on the way to Camp Crystalaiare in Benzonia, MI every summer as a kid. If you venture our way, you're sure to run into a CHERRY REPUBLIC in one of six locations in the state (pre-pandemic, they offered help-yourself bowls of free samples throughout the store). We celebrate annually with the Cherry Festival in Traverse City each July, the ultimate affirmation of its' esteemed title, "Cherry Capital of the World." And without question, the best cherries are always found at mom-and-pop roadside stands along M-31 on the way to and from points Up North. So very Pure Michigan . . .
If you happen to have a cherry tree in the back yard (or a friendly neighbor who does), preserving cherries and making cherry butter is the most delicious way to enjoy. (While not as satisfying, you could also use frozen cherries if you have a hankering out of season or live no where near a cherry tree or have unfriendly neighbors.)
Unlike cherry jam, which is loaded with sugar, cherry butter is made with much less sugar, allowing the tart flavor to shine through. Also, unlike jams, fruit butters do not need a thickening agent, so you can steer clear of any animal products if you don't use gelatins or pectins or if you just find using them a pain.
Truth be told, cherry butter is a bit time consuming and requires a good amount of cherries, but making a good-sized batch at once will last you a while or will win you instant friend status if you share them with my dad.
Yields 5 12oz. Jars // Prep Time: : 45 // Total Cook Time: 4:00
+ 5-6 lbs. organic tart cherries, washed and pitted
+ 2 cup apple juice
+ 1 cup sugar
+ amaretto or vanilla to taste (optional)
+ cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom to taste (optional)
+ large stock pot
+ 5 12 oz. sterilized canning jars with lids
+ canning jar lifter
+ canning funnel
+ blender or emulsifier
- Place pitted cherries and apple juice in large stockpot, bringing to a boil then lowering to simmer.
- Stir occasionally, about every 15 minutes.
- Cook until cherries are softened, about 2 hours.
- Add optional amaretto / vanilla / spices to taste.
- Cook for 3 hours. This is a perfect time to knit with a cup of chai while you savor the sweet cherry smells.
- Cook for 30 minutes, or until much of the liquid is evaporated, leaving a thickened sauce similar in consistency to tomato paste. Be sure to scrape sides and bottom to even consistency and prevent burning.
- Once the sauce is thickened, let cool for 10 minutes, stirring to release a bit of the heat. Pureeing hot liquid can cause spats and bursts and can burn.
- Pureé to a smooth consistency.
- Pour through canning funnel into jars and close lids.
- Set jars in large stock pot with boiling water, about an inch above the jars. Let water boil for 30 minutes.
- Remove HOT jars with canning lifter and place on towel or oven mitts to cool.
- Store in fridge and enjoy for up to 3 months.