Fruit preserves were first created centuries ago in the Middle Eastern countries. The preserves were created as a way for travelers to be able to consume fruit without it becoming spoiled. Today there are hundreds of fruit preserve varieties. From strawberries to lingonberries, if it is a fruit, it can be made into preserves.
Preserves are a healthy way to add fruit to a snack, dish or even dessert. However, most of the pre-packaged preserves that are offered in the grocery stores are filled with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, thickeners and in some cases artificial ingredients. In the healthier grocery stores you can generally find preserves that contain relatively good ingredients, however, they are quite expensive and the available flavors are sometimes limited. Since I love to have fruit preserves on toast, with cheese or even on top of ice cream, I decided I wanted to make my own fruit preserve.
Traditionally fruit preserves are…well preserved fruit, however, I am not comfortable preserving my own food so this recipe might be considered a fruit spread rather then a traditional fruit preserve. Preservation of food is, for me at least, quite an extensive process that if done improperly could leave you feeling very sick. Maybe one day I will feel more comfortable about perfectly the preservation process but for now I will stick to my quick, easy and safe way of enjoying the fruit spreads I love.
For my first preserve recipe I wanted to highlight one of my favorite fruits, cherries. Cherries are sweet, yet tart and have a wonderful pectin content which makes them perfect for making fruit spreads. Cherries have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and cancer preventing properties. They are packed with vitamin E, vitamin B, vitamin C and fiber. Surprisingly cherries actually have protein in them as well! In fact, 1 cup of cherries has 1.5 grams of protein.
Cherries naturally have a high level of pectin. Pectin is a part of the cherry’s cell wall and creates a gummy substance when it is broken down. The pectin content of cherries makes it is an easy fruit to create a jelly type consistency. When cherries are heated, the cell wall is broken down and the pectin is released. While some preserve recipes call for the addition of binders like pectin, I have found that this is not necessary when creating cherry preserves. The heated cherries can stand on their own and thus fewer ingredients are needed for this preserve recipe.
Majority of the pre-packaged preserves available, contain corn syrup, sugar or are sweetened with fruit juice. Cherries are naturally sweet. 100 grams of raw cherries contains about 12 grams of sugar. Since cherries already have a significant amount of naturally occurring sugar, I have decided to not add any additional sugar or sugar substitute to my cherry preserve recipe. I find the resulting cherry preserve to be sweet enough, however, if you have an unyielding sugar tooth, I have added optional sugar ingredients in the recipe should you wish to add them.
The recipe below creates about 1/2 cup of cherry preserves. The recipe can be doubled to fit your particular needs, however, please keep in mind that since the fruit spread is not preserved it only keeps well for a couple days in the refrigerator.
1 cup fresh cherries (de-pitted, washed, drained and patted dried)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Optional: a dash of pure Stevia extract (or 1 tablespoon cane sugar or coconut sugar)
In a medium sized saucepan add all of the ingredients above. Over high heat cook the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Stirring continuously, press gently on the cherries so that they become mushy. Continue to stir and cook until the cherries become a fruit spread consistency (about 7 minutes). Add more water if the spread becomes too thick or if you prefer a thinner preserve. Remove preserves from heat and allow to cool completely. Preserves can be stored in a closed (preferably air tight container) for a couple days in the refrigerator.