Sweet & Sour Cherry Bourbon Preserves

Last year we ended up with a lot more fruit than we originally planned to process (by many, many pounds.) We were a little hesitant about big batches of preserves, as we were still working through the epic amount of mediocre strawberry jam we made in 2009, our first year of canning. To use up all this unplanned bounty, we ended up making jams & preserves in small batches. The experiment worked out well, we have been enjoying many of the things we made last year (lamenting we didn’t make more in some cases.) As a result, we have decided to make more small batch preserves out of our fruit this year.

This week, to start the canning season, we came into a large haul of sweet & sour cherries through a Not Far From the Tree pick. The problem is, we don’t regularly make cherry based preserves. Usually we purchase 5L pails of sour cherries and freeze them for pies and tarts. We have also canned whole sour cherries. Given the quantity available, we wanted to come up with several ways to use them.

In times of canning uncertainty we first check for a recipe from Marisa at Food in Jars that comes close to what we want and build from there. We settled on her Sour Cherry Jam that looked great and was simple enough we could modify it to suit what we wanted 🙂 These modifications included the last minute exclusion of pectin and inclusion of Bourbon.

The results were a delicious preserve. We liked it so much we went out and got more cherries from a local grower this week and made another batch!

Most of this recipe (directions and all) are from Food in Jars – we only tweaked minor things.


600g Sour cherries, pitted and mashed
600g Sweet cherries, pitted and mashed
325g white sugar
1/4 cup Bourbon, anything will do, we used Woodford Reserve.


  1. Put three half-pint jars or six quarter-pints (or some combination thereof) in your canning pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Combine fruit and sugar in a heavy, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and let bubble for a good twenty minutes (our second batch was ~25minutes.) You want to cook it until it looks like boiling sugar – thick and viscous. Add the bourbon and boil for another five minutes.
  3. Kill the heat, fill your jars (leaving 1/2″ head space), wipe rims, apply the lids and rings and process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and let cool on the countertop. When the jars are cool (I typically wait until overnight), remove the rings and test the seal by picking the jar up by the lid. If it stays put, your jars are good to store indefinitely.

For the curious, was also made:

Canning on the Road

It all started when we realized that pickling cucumbers were going to be in season while we were travelling to Ottawa and Quebec. Sometimes there comes a moment where you realize your vacation is going to put a damper on a canned good you were looking forward to making. What would you do?

We had big plans to make 3 kinds of pickles this year; Icicle, Bread & Butter, and Gherkins. The Bread & Butter could be done in a day, no problem. Our Gherkin recipe takes (12) days, where the first 6 of those they just sit with no attention needed, again no problem. The Icicles, however, need attention every day for 12 days, they are also one of our favourites and the ones that were the most depleted in the pantry; big problem.

Shortly after this revelation, resigning ourselves to the fact that we would have to wait another year, we ran into Joel and Dana of Well Preserved. After hearing of our bind, Joel regaled us with his story of making sauerkraut on the road (in Scotland I think). He suggested that since we were using airbnb for our trip that we bring the supplies with us and do it on the road. This course of action had originally crossed our mind however, we had quickly discounted its as hair-brained.

After hearing Joel’s sauerkraut story we begin to seriously look at what would need to happen to make these pickles. It wasn’t too much: a pot, some ingredients, a colander, spoon, bucket, etc. There was only one night we wouldn’t have access to a kitchen/stove. Having made these in the past we knew it only took ~ 10 min a day to process the cucumbers. We could make this work, right?!

First, we made sure we could get the pickling cucumbers, Haystrom Farm came through with a half bushel for us the week before we left. The only thing we were missing was a large bucket, preferably air tight for when it was in the car. We borrowed a fermenting bucket from a friend which fit the bill perfectly.

The first 7 days are pretty low intensity, we started them a week before we went on the road. They literally sit in a pot fermenting, getting stirred once a day.

In Ottawa they sat in a corner with the lid lightly on, we stirred them when we remembered.

The first day with real action we were at our friends hobby farm in Quebec. Being us, we forgot to take pictures so you’ll have to take our word it happened. We drained the fermenting brine and replaced it with boiling water and alum. Since we were on a hobby farm nothing was wasted in this step, the fermenting brine was added to the pig slop for the next day.

At this point we started having to actively do a couple things every day, draining the bucket, boiling the syrup and replacing it. Pretty simple stuff, but a stove is a must. We also had to time things on our last day in the airbnb so that pickles wouldn’t need attention until we got home the next night. Our host was gracious enough to give us a late checkout (4pm), although we didn’t tell him why we needed it 🙂

The pickles survived the overnight in a sealed bucket in the trunk while we pampered ourselves at a nice hotel.

We ended up adding a day to the process, we were tired when we rolled into town and didn’t want to can that night, we reboiled the syrup and let the pickles sit overnight again.

Sadly I can’t tell you how the pickles taste, they are still doing their thing on our canned goods shelf. They looked and smelled right though.

Overall travelling and fermenting/processing of pickles worked out great. I would happily do it again, although I probably still wouldn’t can in someone elses house. That seems like a little too much work for vacation!

All ready to can
All ready to can