My besties and I have a girls’ weekend every year at my little corner. After 30+ years of friendship, you might think the three of us could run out of conversation – but you’d be oh so wrong. It’s a relaxing, bucket-filling, nourishing balm to our souls. Naturally, there is nourishment of the actual food type as well. Some of it even healthy! (Not really this recipe, mind you.)
This year, we tried an amazing conserve that I had picked up at one of the many, many road-side fruit markets in the Chatham-Kent area. We had it with cream cheese on crackers, and maybe a couple of spoonfuls straight from the jar. It would be amazing on vanilla ice cream as well. The below recipe is my attempt at replicating, and I did a pretty good job if I do say so myself.
7 cups fresh cherries, pitted
2 cups frozen whole cranberries, thawed (I might use 1/2 cup less next time)
1 cup sugar (more if you are using tart/sour cherries)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
8 half-pint (250 ml) mason jars
8 lids and rings
Directions for cooking and canning:
Wash your jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. This step should not surprise you!
Measure your cherries and cranberries, and place in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. No need to chop! (If you are using pre-pitted cherries from a bucket like I did, you can include some of the juices from the bucket as well.
Peel your oranges. I sliced off the peel with a knife to get rid of all the pith and because they were very thick-skinned organic oranges. Squeeze each orange over the pot to release most of the juice. Chop the remainder of the now somewhat dry oranges, being sure to remove any stringy bits, and throw the chopped oranges in the pot as well. Stir, stir, stir.
Add sugar and continue to cook the mix gently, softening the cranberries and cherries. Taste for level of sweetness. You can add more sugar as you wish. I started with 1/2 cup which wasn’t enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries. If you are using sour cherries, you’ll almost certainly want more than what I used.
Stir in the spices and continue to cook until the cranberries and cherries are burstingly soft, and the conserve is thick.
Probably a good time to get your jars ready and start heating your water bath. I put a splash of white vinegar in the water bath when I’m canning in Waterloo to counteract our very hard water’s desire to scale.
Remove from heat and stir in the Grand Marnier. Taste for overall flavour profile and balance between sweet and savoury. If you add more sugar, be sure to cook for a little longer so it’s well-incorporated. If you cook it for quite a while longer, add another little splash of liqueur so it’s not all cooked out.
Put the snap lids in hot water for a couple of minutes to soften. It doesn't have to be boiling. I stick them in the water bath canner which I’ve had heating up for the last 20 minutes or so.
Ladle conserve into half-pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace.
As usual, "bubble" each jar with a skewer or chopstick to release any trapped air. Wipe each rim with a clean damp paper towel, dampened with white vinegar to really cut through any stickiness on the rim. Place a heated snap lid down and screw the ring on fingertip tight.
Put the jars into your water bath canner. Make sure there is at least an inch of water above the top of your jars. Put the canner lid on and return to the boil for 10 minutes. Don't start your timer until the water is boiling.
After 10 minutes, rescue your jars from the bath – or don’t, just shut the heat off and let them rest for a bit – and listen for the glorious pops as the lids seal.