One hour, 3 people and 30 kilos of cherries later, the cherry tree that I have rented has been stripped bare. The orchard grows a range of modern cherry varieties such as Kordia, Colney and Sweetheart, and mine being Colney were second in the season to ripen in the middle of July, right on schedule despite the recent pouring rain.
Rain damages these precious soft fruits, so me and my fellow cherry pickers were pleased to see the perfect ripe round fruits. Not that a few splits would have made any impact on the amount that we picked.
The Sussex Cherry Picker - aka my mother was sent home from the orchard with a mere 5kilos with instructions to freeze the ones she was unable to eat. I only have an ice box which is already crammed with garden herbs, so there will be some Sussex cherry treats later in the year to look forward to if we're not sick of them by then.
Worried about my precious fruit spoiling, I prepared in advance for pickling and jam making. On arrival back at the flat, the reality of the situation dawned on me...the random collection of just 8 jars in varying sizes would not be quite enough. Off to the cook shop for some kilner jars - litre ones!
What I thought would be an evening making a few jars of jam and cherries in kirsch, turned into a week of evenings de-strigging and stoning cherries and sterilising jars. What fun though?! Never having preserved before, I quickly got to grips with the essentials such as making sugar syrups, jam making, and most importantly securing a good seal.
Preserving has come back into fashion, thankfully as I scoured the Internet for cherry recipes - spiced cherries for Christmas, cherries in kirsch, cherries in syrup, cherry jam - or rather compote (cherries are a low pectin fruit, which I learnt after making the jam when it didn't set!). So I have stacks of cherries preserved for the rest of the years puddings, breakfast yoghurt toppings - plus the cherry brandy. Not that I like brandy - good job I like cherries though!