cherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preservescherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preserves

In the olden days, whether in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, the Balkans, and also in further away Romania and some Middle-Eastern countries, every guest visiting any home, no matter how rich or poor the household was, could expect a cup of hot coffee, a cold glass of water and a small plate of room-temperature home-made "spoon sweets", particularly in the late fall, winter and early spring months, when fresh fruits were unavailable.

Spoon sweets were prepared, often using sweet, sour or acidic fruits or ripe and even greener un-ripened fruits and sometimes their rinds and peels too and were expected to last until the next year’s harvest.

You could expect sour cherry (if available) spoon sweets or regular cherry, grape, baby fig, orange rind, lemon rind, apricot, pear, quince and sometimes even baby walnuts (before the outer shell hardened), watermelon rind and at times, the fancier rose petal versions. 

Using small whole pitted fruits is the easiest option compared to citrus rinds that need to be boiled several times before preserving and sweetening and watermelon or melon rinds that require soaking in limewater first.

A spoon sweet is not a jam nor a marmalade, but a sweetened and thickened preparation of whole fruits or larger pieces of fruits, that remain quite firm and almost crunchy (depending on the fruits used) resting in a thickened aromatic syrup.

I used sweet cherries simply because sour cherries are less easy to find and quite expensive but if you can find them, just use those instead without adding more sugar to the recipe.

My method is quite close to the candied fruit method. I do not boil the fruits with the juices for a long period of time and then transfer the preparation to jars. I prefer to spread the process over several days, preserving the fruits’ shapes and firmness by letting the fruits marinate and rest in the hot syrup that slowly cools down for 24 hour periods, before re-boiling the syrup separately from the fruits again and adding the fruits back in to continue absorbing the sweet flavorful syrup and plumping them up a bit more each time. The extra steps are not time-consuming nor active preparation time, just patience and waiting time and a guarantee for firmness and plumpness.

Every household would prepare their versions every year and carefully hide them from the kids, because it was unfathomable, back in those days, to not be able to serve spoon sweets to your surprise or last-minute guests, simply because the kids discovered the hiding place and gobbled it all up ! Back in the old days, people cared what other people thought about them and how they received others or how they were received by others.

Household Hospitality, no matter how simple and modest or grandiose and sophisticated, was important to all … :)

cherries in syrup «spoon sweets» preserves

04.07.2020

1 kg or 3 cups

ingredients

  • 750 grams (5 cups) pitted cherries (from 825/850 grams whole cherries, but save the pits for later)
  • 150 grams (1 ½ whole) lemons, juice & rinds
  • 1,5 liters (6 cups) cold water
  • 750 grams (3 ¾ cups) golden cane sugar
  • 45 ml (1 tbsp + 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) mahleb seeds, ground (or ¼ tsp almond extract)
  • optional : 5 grams (5 whole leaves) fresh rose geranium leaves (or 1 tsp geranium water and/or rose water)
  • optional : 5 ml (1 tsp) cherry brandy (or other strong alcohol liquor)

instructions

  • day 1 : wash the cherries, place in cold (or ice-cold water) with the juice of 1 ½ whole lemons and the empty pressed rinds and let sit for 3 hours until firmer, then strain and pat dry, carefully remove pits with a cherry-pitter (or using a glass bottle and a chopstick as I do) and try to keep them whole, save the pits and the empty lemon rinds for later and place the pitted cherries, the salt and sugar in a large bowl and let sit for at least 3 hours (or overnight) until most of the juices are released (almost half cherries and half sweetened juices)
  • day 2 : strain the pitted cherries and set aside, place the cherry pits, the empty lemon rinds and the sweet juices into a casserole, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 10-15 minutes and remove any froth on the surface, strain the juice and discard the cherry pits and lemon rinds and place the juice back inside the casserole and bring to a gentle boil again
  • gently place the cherries inside and 1 tbsp lemon juice until everything starts gently simmering again (not boiling) and frothy bubbles appear on the surface, skim the froth from the surface again, remove the casserole from the heat and add a lid with a paper towel underneath it and let the cherries and juices sit for 24 hours until the next day
  • day 3 : the next day, strain the cherries from the juices, bring the juices to a boil again, add 1 tbsp lemon juice, add the cherries, wait until it gently starts simmering again and immediately remove from heat and let sit for another 24 hours with a lid and a fresh paper towel
  • prepare the aromatics and combine them together, if using mahleb seeds (dried seeds from small black Saint-Lucie cherries with cherry and almond, available in Greek, Turkish and Middle-Eastern shops), grind them and let them sit in the extracts and/or liquor for several hours, then strain and reserve, if using geranium leaves, leave them whole or attached to a stem and only add them later to the juices
  • day 4 : on this last day, strain the juice from the cherries, add the geranium leaves, bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to a gently simmer, remove the geranium leaves, add the cherries and 1 tbsp lemon juice, wait until it starts gently simmering again, add the aromatics (extracts and/or liquor), let it come to a simmer, immediately remove from the heat and let cool down slightly for 5 minutes
  • transfer the hot syrup and cherries to sterilized jars (I used two 400 ml jars which was exactly enough for 1 kg of preserved sweets), screw the lids on tightly (use oven mitts), turn them upside down until completely cooled to room temperature, then turn right-side up and store in the pantry or the refrigerator and if possible, let the mixture mature for several weeks in the pantry or refrigerator before using (they will become tastier and plumper as time goes by)
  • serve as is, placing 2 tbsp of cherry spoon sweet on a plate per person, (don’t forget the spoon), served with a glass of cold water and a hot coffee or tea or use as a topping for desserts …