Preserved Cherries with Brandy

Simple way to use that huge box of cherries you bought on a whim at the Farmers’ Market

I ordered a box of cherries from Bailey’s last week but unfortunately due to the wet spring their supplier wasn’t able to come through. It was too bad but I ended up getting a bunch of cherries from Martin’s Family Fruit Farm instead.  It was my first visit out there and I came home with a flat of black raspberries too – more on that in the next post.

It turns out that Timothy loves cherries. He ate so many that I was worried he would have a big stomach ache. That kids can really pack away the fruit though. He was fine which is shocking since he ate as many black raspberries as he did cherries.

Since I had all these cherries, I needed to add a gadget to my kitchen. I went to the kitchen gadget store and over paid for the best one they had. I bought a Westmark Cherry Pitter. It works great but the damn thing will have to become an heirloom because I paid $30 for it (stupid, stupid, stupid).  I also found that when you are pitting cherries using a cherry pitter, wear black, or if you want things to get a little sexy in your kitchen, go topless.  I’m still finding spots on the wall near the kitchen table that need a wipe.  I opted of the wear black and wear an apron option.  Before we entered the cherry pitter tool era we used the Redneck cherry pitter – eat the cherry and spit out the pit.  Since this was our pitting method, I haven’t ever made desserts or preserves with cherries before.

So, on to the little tale of making cherry preserves instead of pie filling. I was doing some reading online about how to can pie filling and pretty much everywhere I looked I was reading that you need to use Clear Jel. This is a special commercial modified corn starch that I would have had to special order. My cherries weren’t getting going to stay fresh long enough to order anything, especially from the U.S., so preserves it would have to be. I’d like to send a special thanks to *Kaela over at and for your advice which saved me from the disaster of adding regular old cornstarch before canning. I plan on adding cornstarch or tapioca just before using the cherries and liquid in pies or tarts. Hmmm, turnovers using store-bought puff pastry would also be really nice.

By the time I got around start making these preserves, it was 10 pm on Saturday night and I was exhausted. I pitted the cherries and then took the easy way out and added some brandy and a cup of sugar to them and put them in the fridge to macerate. I got back to them in the morning and I think they turned out pretty well. My photos of the jars didn’t turn out so hot, and through a Facebook vote from friends and family of the two pictures that weren’t totally awful it came out pretty much a tie. So below is the second photo that one friend said had an angelic glow. 😉  Professional photographers or people who know more about photography than I do would probably say ‘crap lighting’. What can you do though? Sometimes you have to just take the pictures and use what you have so that the blog post can get up before a little dude’s nap is over.

A little note about what to do when something boils over on your stove: first thing, blow on it – it will bring it down briefly enough so that you can get a spoon in there to stir it without making more liquid get on your stove like it would if you just put a spoon in right away. (The spoon would displace more liquid, therefore making more of a mess before it got better). Take the pot off the stove, wipe the stove and the bottom and side of the pot down and then carry on. I guess you figured out that this little project boiled over on me. I turned my back for 30 seconds and then smelled burnt sugar. Thank God I have a ceramic cooktop stove.

*Note: To see the advice tweets click,  here, here and here.

I started out trying to make pie filling but ended up with preserves that I will use as pie filling

Simple Preserved Cherries with Brandy

This is a very simple way to preserve cherries that can later be used as pie filling. Just add some cornstarch mixed with a bit of water.

40 minsPrep Time

40 minsCook Time

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  • 7 cups pitted sweet cherries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup brandy, reserving 3 tsp to be added directly to the jars before putting the lids on
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice


  1. If you and the cherries need a break from each other, feel free to do what I did - added one cup of sugar and half the brandy in a large glass bowl, stirred it a bit and then put the bowl in the fridge overnight. Totally optional.
  2. Pour the cherries, sugar, lemon juice and brandy (except the amount you reserve) into a large, heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot. Turn the heat on to just before medium.
  3. Stir everything together and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for 20 minutes. Stir often and don't walk away. It could boil over - mine did.
  4. Skim off the foam if you can.
  5. After it has boiled for 20 minutes, ladle the cherries and liquid into hot, sterilized jars. Do your best to make sure each jar gets enough liquid to cover the cherries.
  6. Add an extra teaspoon or so of brandy to each jar. Put the lids and rings on and process for 10 minutes using the boiling water method. I use a canning pot with a special rack.
  7. After 10 minutes in the boiling water, remove the jars using a jar lifter and place on a rack to cool. Leave the jars alone for 24 hours and then store in a cool dark place if they are sealed properly.


Wash and sterilize (boil in a canning pot with a rack for 10 minutes) three 500 ml mason jars. Keep the jars warm. In a separate pot, sterilize a funnel and ladle. 5 minutes before the cherries are ready to be added to the hot jars, boil the lids for 5 minutes.


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  1. Anonymous says

    You are not kidding about the splatter from pitting the cherries. I found covering it with one hand while squeezing with the other blocked it fairly well.
  2. Clarissa says

    I just love your site! You have the greatest recipes! I am always (like you) thinking of "out of the box" recipes and you certainly deliver them. I get bored with the regular (non boozy) recipes. Thanks for sharing! This would be a great one for the holidays!
  3. says

    We've always done such things as pitting cherries, chopping up a BIG watermelon and snapping bowls of beans on the back porch or picnic table. Well away from the kitchen and in "play clothes" which are likely already splatters with various smudges from previous adventures. My grandmother had a red and cream kitchen when she redid it and replaced the mustard colored appliances and cherry stains would have been frowned upon. Those do look lovely though.
    • says

      The extra sugar is not essential but the preserves won't last as long and the colour can change. I really don't recommend skipping the sugar - they simply won't turn out as nicely.


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