• When possible, preserve fresh, locally-grown cherries for the best quality and nutritional value. Determine when fresh cherries are available where you live with this seasonal food guide.

1. Selection

Sweet or Sour Cherries 

  • An average of 17½ pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 11 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A lug weighs 25 pounds and yields 8 to 12 quarts – an average of 2½ pounds per quart.
  • Select bright, uniformly colored cherries that are mature (of ideal quality for eating fresh or cooking).

Recipes

If this is your first time canning or it has been awhile, it is recommended that you read Using Boiling Water Canners and General Canning Information before beginning.  

2. Ingredients

  • 17 1/2 pounds of cherries (makes 7 quarts)
  • 11 pounds of cherries (makes 9 pints)
  • For anti-darkening solution, use one of the following:
    • Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)- 1 teaspoon crystalline or 3,000 mg Vitamin C tablets- dissolve in 1 gallon of water
    • Commercial anti-darkening product- a mixture of citric and ascorbic acid- follow manufacturer's directions
    • 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice- mix in 1 gallon water
  • Packing liquid, any of the following:
    • Commercial, unsweetened apple or white grape juice  
    • Water 
    • Water + sugar (for syrup)- see table below for ingredients needed for preparing syrup 
Measure of Water and Sugar for Syrup
Syrup Type For 9 Pints            (or 4 Quarts) For 7 Quarts
  Cups Water Cups Sugar Cups Water Cups Sugar
Very Light 6-1/2 3/4 10-1/2 1-1/4
Light 5-3/4 1-1/2 9 2-1/4
Medium 5-1/4 2-1/4 8-1/4 3-3/4
Heavy  5 3-1/4 7-3/4 5-1/4

 

3. Equipment

  • Water bath canner: Large covered pot (with a tight-fitting cover and a rack) that is deep enough to cover the rack and canning jars by 1 to 2 inches of boiling water. (At least 10 inches deep for pint jars, and 12 inches deep for quart jars.)
  • Canning jars: Use standard canning jars without cracks or chips (see recipe for sizes)
  • Lids and bands: Bands can be reused if they are in good shape, but lids must be new to ensure a proper seal
  • Long-handled spoon
  • Bowl (for anti-darkening solution)
  • Colander (for draining fruit)
  • Wide-mouth funnel
  • Jar lifter (for moving jars into/out of canner)
  • Lid wand (magnetic tool used to transfer lids to jars)
  • Bubble freer, or a plastic or rubber knife-like utensil (for removing air from food)
  • Ruler for measuring headspace (some bubble freers include this feature)
  • Large covered pot (for hot pack syrup)
  • Medium pot for extra boiling water
  • Towels or wire rack for cooling jars
  • Paper towels
  • Hot pads
  • Cutting board
  • Knives
  • Timer or clock

4. Prepare Canning Equipment

Water Bath Canner-

  • Assemble and wash equipment and containers.
    • Wash canning jars in soapy water, rinse, and keep hot. (This can be done in a dishwasher or by placing jars in the water that is heating in your canner.)
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for preparing lids.
  • Place rack in the bottom of a boiling water canner. Fill the canner approximately half full with clean warm water for a canner load of pint jars. For other sizes and numbers of jars, you will need to adjust the amount of water so it will be 1 to 2 inches over the top of the filled jars.
  • Center the canner over the burner and preheat the water to 140 degrees F for raw-packed foods and to 180 degrees F for hot-packed foods.
  • In medium pot, boil some extra water to use later, as needed, to cover the jars or fruit.
  • Begin preparing food for your jars while this water is preheating.

5. Prepare Ingredients

  • Wash cherries. Drain. 
  • Remove pits, if desired.
    • If pitted, place cherries in anti-darkening solution (see Ingredients section above) to prevent stem-end discoloration.
    • If pit is left inside, prick each cherry to prevent bursting and shrinking. 
  • Cherries may be canned in water, juice or syrup. If syrup is desired, select and prepare preferred type as directed in table above in Ingredients section.

For raw pack-

  • Bring to a boil syrup, juice or water. Refer to table above in Ingredients section.

For hot pack-

  • Place cherries in a large cooking pot and add ½ cup water, juice, or syrup for each quart of fruit. Bring to boil.

6. Pack Jars

Hot pack-

  • Fill jars with prepared cherries and boiling syrup, water or juice, leaving ½-inch headspace.
  • Remove air bubbles.
  • Add more liquid, if needed, for ½-inch headspace.
  • Wipe rim with clean, wet paper towel.
  • Place lid on jar and add screw band. Screw the band down fingertip tight- not too loose nor too tight. Follow lid manufacturer's directions for tightening the jar lids properly.

For raw pack-

  • Add ½ cup hot water, juice, or syrup to each jar.
  • Fill jars with cherries, shaking down gently as you fill.
  • Remove air bubbles.
  • Add more liquid, if needed, for ½-inch headspace.
  • Wipe rim with clean, wet paper towel.
  • Place lid on jar and add screw band. Screw the band down fingertip tight- not too loose nor too tight. Follow lid manufacturer's directions for tightening the jar lids properly.

7. Process Jars

Water Bath Canner-

  • With jar lifter, place jars on canning rack in large pot, which is filled with hot water. Jars should not touch each other.
  • Add or remove boiling water as needed until jars are covered by 1" - 2".
  • Turn heat to high and bring to a vigorous boil.
  • Set timer for correct processing time. Refer to the tables below for processing time for your elevation and jar size.
  • Cover canner with lid and lower heat setting to maintain a gentle boil throughout processing time.
  • When processing time is up, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars to allow contents to settle.
  • Using a jar lifter, remove jars one at a time. Do not tilt jars. Place jars on a cooling rack or towel, leaving at least one inch space between. Avoid placing jars on a cold surface or near a cold draft.
  • Allow the jars to cool untouched, away from drafts, for 12 to 24 hours before testing lid seals.
  • Once cool, remove the screw bands and check the seal.
  • If any jars did not seal, treat as if 'fresh' and do any of the following:
    • Eat the food immediately.
    • Refrigerate food and use within a week.
    • Freeze.
    • Reprocess. If reprocessing, must repeat the entire canning process.

8. Store

  • With clean cloth or paper towel, wipe jars and lids to remove all residues.
  • Label with date and processing method.
  • Store in a cool, dark place, where there is no danger of freezing.
  • Stored properly, canned fruits should retain their quality for about 1 year.

Not sure of your elevation? Click here

Boiling water bath (raw pack)-PINTS or QUARTS
0-1,000 ft 1,001-3,000 ft 3,001-6,000 ft 6,001-9,000 ft
25 minutes 30 minutes 35 minutes 40 minutes
Boiling water bath (hot pack)-PINTS
0-1,000 ft 1,001-3,000 ft 3,001-6,000 ft 6,001-9,000 ft
15 minutes 20 minutes 20 minutes 25 minutes
Boiling water bath (hot pack)-QUARTS
0-1,000 ft 1,001-3,000 ft 3,001-6,000 ft 6,001-9,000 ft
20 minutes 25 minutes 30 minutes 35 minutes