I sort of followed the recipe for cherry preserves in Linda Ziedrich's wonderful book Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves. which calls for these ingredients
2 1/2 lb pitted sour cherries
5 c. sugar
2 T. strained lemon juice
Mix the cherries and sugar and let them stand for 8 - 12 hours. Then, you are supposed to cook them until they set up on a chilled plate and wrinkle when you run your finger through them. I really don't like the so called "wrinkle test", so I decided to just cook my cherries until they hit the jelling temp, which is 220F for me because I live at an elevation less than 1000 ft. I added a pint of apple pectin I put up last year for good measure. My preserves didn't set up....the question is why?
Cherries are a low pectin fruit, so that means that to get them to jell up, you must add lots of sugar and cook them a long time. I wonder if my homemade pectin actually had enough pectin in it? To make your own you are supposed to use green apples. I can't remember what I made it from last year. Maybe I didn't cook it down long enough? There's a pectin test I have read about...you mix the juice with rubbing alcohol to see if it forms a jelled blob. Don't taste it after you do this - it's poison. I could test the other jar I have of pectin.I have to see if it's got enough pectin in it. Mix 1 teaspoon of cooked, cooled crushed fruit with 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Use a closed container and shake gently. Juices from fruit that is high in pectin will form a solid gelatinous lump. If the fruit is low in pectin, it will form only small rubbery particles. Those with an average pectin content will form a few pieces of the jelly-like substance
I looked for some recipes online - boy, are they difficult to come by! Even the MSU Extension didn't have any, and Michigan is the nation's cherry capitoll! No recipes in the online version of the Traverse City newspapers that I could find. I did find one recipe on the "Pick Your Own" website that called for 3 lbs pitted cherries, 4 cups sugar and 1 1/4 boxes of pectin. That was interesting - an extra 1/4 box of pectin. Tasting the preserves I already made, I noticed that it is sweeter than I would like. I froze some of the tart cherries I have left. I think I will add them, and also add the apple/lemon pectin I like to make up for jam.
For future reference, I would love to have an end product that tastes like American Spoon's sour cherry spoon fruit, or any of their other flavors. Their spoon fruit isn't overly sweet and tastes like something you could eat right out of the jar. Looking at the ingredient list, it indicates red tart cherries, white grape juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, lemon juice, cherry juice concentrate, pectin. This got me thinking, since my next canning project will likely involve blueberries, I checked out their ingredient list for the blueberry flavor - it's blueberries, white grape juice concentrate, blueberry juice concentrate, lemon juice, pectin, arrowroot. Since arrowroot is out for home canning (thickening products can make the texture unsafe for canning), I won't be adding that. I'm going to have to do some experimentation.