How to Make Russian Sour-Cherry Preserves

July 7, 2013

in Appetizers & Misc., Preserving, Recipes, Russian & Azerbaijani

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Few things are more representative of the Russian (and my native Azerbaijani) culture than home-brewed black tea, accompanied by a saucer of sweet, fragrant whole-fruit preserves, prepared by simmering unpitted cherries, raspberries, and other seasonal fruit in syrup until the latter has reduced and taken on the flavor of the now-candied fruit. A small amount is then served alongside a cup of hot, unsweetened tea to be eaten with a spoon between the sips. If you have never experienced this particular delight, I really recommend that you give it a try.

Here’s where I would like to make it really clear that I spent a better part of my childhood and adolescence pining after these, because my mom happened to be a rare Azerbaijani woman who simply could not make them. After I came to America and settled on our farm, plentiful with fruit that it was, learning how to put things up became my first important goal as a housewife – in part to provide for my family, in part to break my mom’s spell of fear in the kitchen. Pregnant with my first child and without any internet connection, I spent that first summer canning and freezing and pickling, teaching myself as I went with the help of a few different books. I’ve felt like an expert ever since.

The cherries that I used in this particular recipe are special, though. They came from a cherry tree outside my kitchen window, planted especially for me by my husband for my first Mother’s Day.

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It took the tree the full seven years to produce a crop large enough for a couple of batches of preserves, but I did not mind waiting – I knew I had the benefit of time, thanks to choosing a steady, settled life on this particular piece of land. I didn’t plan to move and had no doubt that I’d be there to gather the first crop. This summer I was, at last, able to do it.

So, you see, I simply had to do something special with this very special batch, and few things are more special to me than tart cherries in sweet syrup. I didn’t have a recipe, but preserves are not complicated, and it only took me two tries to come up with this nostalgic, classic version. Here it is:

While we are on this subject, do check out another sour-cherry preserve recipe from my good friend Rachel of Lusa Organics (the maker of the best natural baby and body products, ever).

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brandi July 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Delicious! I think I have everything to make this!!!
I am so excited to see the final result of the house project! I have been working on our yard this year. I am trying to get berry bushes established and several cottage gardens around the house. I think it is sweet your husband planted a cherry tree on your first mothers day! So wonderful!
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2 kelly @ kellybakes July 8, 2013 at 10:56 am

Found your site through Food and Jars and am happy to report that I have a pint of sour cherries in my fridge that will find their way into these preserves! Glad to have foudn you. Can’t wait to explore your site :)
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3 Sofya July 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

Thanks, Kelly! Let me know how they turn out!

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4 bridgit July 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

Funny, my husband planted a cherry tree for a mother’s day gift to me (not my first mother’s day, but close), and we are in the middle of the first harvest now. I think this is what I will do with the remaining cherries… now that the pie is done!

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5 Martine July 29, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I have 5 gallons of tart cherries staring me in the face right now, so among other things will definitely be trying this! I just am curious about how you use it. You mention to serve it with black tea, so… Do you drink your tea and eat the preserves with a spoon? Mix them into the tea? With the pits in there I wouldn’t think you’d want to spread it on toast!

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6 Sofya July 30, 2013 at 12:19 am

Yes, you drink unsweetened black tea and eat preserves with a spoon. You end up eating about 1/2 cup of preserves per cup of tea. An integral part of a Russian and Azerbaijani meal! Makes for great social family time.

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7 Martine July 30, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Thanks for your reply! I will try that for sure. We are big black tea drinkers in winter. I did try something else with it in the meantime that turned out pretty good. I took a couple spoonfuls of the preserves with a pint of carbonated water–an italian soda! And then add a shot of full cream and it’s a french soda, mmm. Thank you for sharing the recipe and the tradition.

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8 Kelly Bagdanov October 11, 2013 at 12:11 am

I’ve just spent a delightful hour bopping around your blog. So much fun. My husband is Russian and I was introduced to the cherries with tea practice through his family. We have cherry farms nearby, so I’ll be planning a trip when they do the next harvest and trying a batch.

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