Sour Cherries: Two Classic Preserves

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Blossoms on a cherry blossom tree or cherry tree signal the end of cold, dark winter days. The cherry blossoms remind us that summer harvesting is just around the corner. Cherries typically harvest during June, though some will harvest into July. Some of us have memories of summer cherry pies, or breakfast toast with butter and cherry jam. Cherries are a sign of warm summer days. Preserving cherries allows us to carry our summer favorite into the fall and winter.

Here are two methods of preserving your summer sour cherry crops into a delicious jam.

Simple Sour Cherries

Use perfectly ripe cherries to capture the flavor and essence of summer into jars. This recipe will help you make cherry pie filling or cherry topping sauce that can be used well after summer ends.
Calories: 2135kcal


  • Mason jars – or other pint sized canning jars. Each pound of fruit will yield approximately one pint of simple sour cherries.


For every 4 pounds of sour cherries you will need the following:

  • 6 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar – raw white or cane sugar can be used.
  • 4 lb Sour Cherries


  • Prepare jars and canning pot for hot water bath processing. You don’t need to sterilize the jars, because you’ll be processing the filled jars for 25 minutes.
  • Combine the water and sugar into a small sauce pan and heat on low until the sugar has dissolved completely.
  • Increase the heat and bring the solution to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and maintain a simmer until you’re ready to use the solution.
  • Fill the empty canning jars with raw cherries – pits removed. Place a dish towel onto the counter for padding. Tap the cherry-filled jars firmly onto the towel in order to compress the fruit. Don’t mash the fruit down. Simply tap the jar until you’ve filled the jar substantially – leaving approximately ½” headspace in the jar.
  • Place 6 cherry pits into each jar, for a nutty and slightly bitter flavor.
  • Pour any remaining cherry juice from your bowl of cherries into the jar, and then pour the sugar syrup solution into the jar. Be sure to leave ½” headspace in the jar.
  • Tap the jar onto the padded counter again, to release any air bubbles. Top off again with the sugar syrup if there’s space.
  • Seal the jars and hot water bath process for 25 minutes.


Calories: 2135kcal | Carbohydrates: 550g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 200mg | Potassium: 1728mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 200g | Vitamin A: 13172IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 226mg | Iron: 24mg

Sour Cherry Preserves

Making your own jam or preserves can be incredibly rewarding. Simply knowing exactly what went into that jar can bring a sense of comfort. It can be difficult to find some fruit varieties in the main stream supermarkets, so, why not make your own? It’s a lot easier than most people realize.
Calories: 1808kcal


  • Mason jars – or other ½ pint sized canning jars. Each pound of fruit will yield approximately one of sour cherry preserves.


  • 3 pounds sour cherries
  • 1 Cup Sugar – raw white or cane sugar can be used.
  • ¼ Cup lemon juice


  • Prepare the canning jars and pot for hot water bath processing. The jars don’t need to be sterilized because you’ll be processing the filled jars for 10 minutes. Place 2 or 3 small saucers in the freezer.
  • Rinse and pit the cherries.
  • Place the cherries into a non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enameled iron) and crush about ½ of them with your fingers to release their juice.
  • Add the sugar and the lemon juice to the pot.
  • Heat the mixture on low heat until the sugar dissolves completely.
  • Increase the heat and boil for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until desired set has been reached.

To test if set:

  • Remove pot from heat.
  • Place a teaspoon full of the mixture onto a frozen plate.
  • Place the plate back into the freezer for one minute.
  • Remove from freezer and push finger tip through the preserves. If it wrinkles under your finger, even a little bit, it’s set. If your finger glides through without resistance, boil the mixture for one minute longer.
  • Repeat this process until desired set is reached.
  • Place the set mixture into canning jars and hot water bath process for 10 minutes. OR, jar and put directly into the refrigerator. Your sour cherries preserves are ready for you to enjoy all year long!!


Calories: 1808kcal | Carbohydrates: 467g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 98mg | Potassium: 1360mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 201g | Vitamin A: 9883IU | Vitamin C: 51mg | Calcium: 142mg | Iron: 18mg

Sugar Substitutions

If you’re not a big fan of sugar, you can use honey. The sugar is used to preserve the fruits, though. It’s not just a sweetener. If you’re going to use honey as an alternative to sugar, there are some things to remember.

  • Adding honey may change the flavor of the sour cherries. If you’re planning to use honey as alternative, you may want to make a small batch before preserving large quantities to ensure you’ll like it.
  • Replace 1 Cup sugar with 7/8 Cup of honey. Don’t change any other liquids.
  • NutraSweet, Equal and Saccharine are not stable when heated. These are not recommended for use in canning.
  • Agave Nectar is composed of fructose and glucose – real sugars- so works well making preserves. Use this as you would with honey, replacing 1 Cup of sugar with 7/8 Cup of Agave Nectar.

Sour cherries are so tasty and so perfectly lusty cherry tasting. I hope both of these methods of preserving delivers mouth-puckering joy with a mix of sweetness to your next slice of toast.

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