You can home can delicious sweet or sour cherries for future use in cooking or for eating on their own.
Here, we are canning them plain in water, to provide total flexibility in how they are used in the future. If you canned them sweetened, that would restrict their use.
Canning them in different sized jars provides maximum flexibility in reaching for just the jar size you need at the time.
There is an option to can them unpitted if you choose, but here we’re going to bite the bullet and do the pitting upfront, so they are ready to use the second a jar is opened.
These canning directions apply to both sweet and sour cherries.
Quantities of cherries needed
Numbers are approximate guidelines.
On average, as a very rough guideline, expect to need about 1 kg (2.5 lbs) of cherries per 1 litre (US quart) jar of canned cherries
- 8 (17.5 lbs) of cherries = 7 litres (US quarts) canned cherries
- 5 kg (11 lbs ) of cherriess = 9 x 1/2 litres (US pints) canned cherries
Jar size choices: Either half-litre (1 US pint) OR 1 litre (1 US quart)
Processing method: Water bath OR steam canning OR pressure canning
Headspace: 2 cm (1/1 inch)
Processing time: half-litre (US pint) jars for 15 minutes; litre (US quart) jars for 20 minutes
Note that because we are doing here the USDA’s sugar-free option, we must use the hot pack method.
- Cherries (sour or sweet)
- Prepare a very large pot or bowl of water that has been acidulated (by adding lemon juice or ascorbic acid.)
- Wash the cherries, stem them, and pit them.
- Place pitted cherries in that acidulated water to prevent the exposed flesh from browning.
- Continue until all your cherries are prepped.
- Remove cherries from water, drain well.
- Measure them as you put them into a pot.
- For each 750 g (1 litre / 1 quart / 4 cups volume / 1½ lbs) of fruit you put into the pot, you will add 125 ml (1/2 cup / 4 oz) of water.
- Bring this pot to a boil and let simmer for a few minutes until all cherries are heated through (don't cook them.)
- Pack cherries into jars.
- Leave 3 cm (1 inch) headspace.
- Top up with the water you boiled them in from the pot or if there isn't enough, clean boiling water (such as from a kettle, for instance).
- Leave 2 cm (1/2 inch) headspace after being filled with liquid.
- Debubble, adjust headspace.
- Wipe jar rims.
- Put lids on.
- Process in a water bath or steam canner.
- Processing time: ½ litre (US pint) jars for 15 minutes; litre (US quart) jars for 20 minutes. Increase time as needed for your altitude.
For the canning liquid, you could also use apple juice or white grape juice. Heat your cherries up before packing in that instead of the plain water. Note that juice can be more expensive, though.
Raw pack method
The USDA also offers a raw-pack method for packing cherries unheated into a jar.
However, if you are canning your cherries sugar free, using water or juice as your canning liquid, most experts advise you definitely to use hot-pack. The Ball / Bernardin Complete Book says, “If you’re preserving fruits using fruit juice or water…you must use the hot-pack method.”1
Note that you don’t really save much time doing raw pack, because you still have to heat the canning liquid, anyway, and, raw pack jars must be processed longer.
See here for the USDA’s raw pack processing times for cherries.
Canning unpitted cherries
The USDA’s method does allow you to can cherries unpitted.
If you prefer to do that, go ahead. It doesn’t change the packing or processing recommendations with the exception of this additional work: “If canned unpitted, prick skins on opposite sides with a clean needle to prevent splitting.”
Pressure canning process
The USDA also offers a pressure canning process for either the hot-pack or raw-pack method.
See here for pressure-canning cherries directions.
How to water bath process.
How to steam can.
When water-bath canning or steam canning, you must adjust the processing time for your altitude.
How to pressure can.
When pressure canning, you must adjust the pressure for your altitude.
More information about Sugar and Salt-Free Canning in general.
Cherries – Whole. In: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Complete guide to home canning. Agriculture information bulletin No. 539. 2015. Page 2-12.
Nutrition figures presume canned in water, as opposed to a sugar-syrup, or juice. Liquid stevia in the water would not affect nutritional values.
Per 125 g (1/2 cup):
- 80 calories, 0 mg sodium
- Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 0 points (cherries with no additives are free on Weight Watchers.)
* Nutrition info provided by https://caloriecount.about.com
* PointsPlus™ calculated by healthycanning.com. Not endorsed by Weight Watchers® International, Inc, which is the owner of the PointsPlus® registered trademark.
Kingry, Judi and Lauren Devine. Ball / Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving. Toronto: Robert Rose. 2015. Page 143. ↩