Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chai Cherry Butter

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Chai cherry butter on a wedge of Irish soda bread
Chai cherry butter on a wedge of Irish soda bread

My oldest son Ben came home with a treasured jar of dark cherry jam that was thick and flavorful this past winter.  It was a gift from his Aunt Annie and he raved about it often, sharing only the smallest of tastes.  That jar was the inspiration for me to create something for Ben so that he could have it as a treat throughout winter.  After tasting and adjusting and tweaking here and there this is his final approved Chai Cherry Butter.

12 cups sweet cherries, washed and stemmed
12 cups sweet cherries, washed and stemmed

Don't be put off by the chai portion of this recipe.  The spices add a delicate amount of flavor to accent and enhance the cherries without overwhelming them at all.  It is simple to make the infusion and it will take your cherry butter to a whole new level.  I steep the spices in hot water for an hour then strain them out.  I then cook the cherries in the chai water until they are soft and ready to be run through the food mill to remove the pits.  I wait until then to remove the pits because they add a depth to the butter that would be missed if you make this with pitted cherries.

Cooked cherries in food mill, ready to be pitted
Cooked cherries in food mill, ready to be pitted

Chai cherry butter slowly cooking, lid propped with chop stick
Chai cherry butter slowly cooking, lid propped with chop stick

I think my favorite part of making this butter is that I do it all in the crock pot.  Easy, slow, letting the butter thicken and come together all while I am able to get other chores done.  Nice.  Just prop open the lid (I use a chop stick) so that the water can evaporate out and magically you will return hours later to find your cherry butter is ready to can.  I am very happy with this recipe but more importantly it has Ben's stamp of approval.  If you are a cherry fan this Chai Cherry Butter is a great way to preserve them.

Chai Cherry Butter
Sweet fresh cherries with chai seasonings, simmered down slowly in the crock pot to make a fantastic butter.
  • Chai Infusion
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 16 cardamon pods, green
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • Chai Cherry Butter
  • 12 cups sweet cherries, stemmed and washed
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

  1. Make your chai infusion first since it needs to steep for an hour. In a heat proof dish add all of the spices and then cover them with the 2 cups of boiling water. Set this aside for 1 hour.
  2. Stem and wash your cherries. Add them to your large crock pot. Pour the steeped chai water through a small sieve directly into your pot of cherries. Cover with a lid and cook on the highest setting for 2 hours, give or take, until the cherries are soft.
  3. Carefully transfer the cherries to your food mill with the largest screen. Working in batches remove all of the pits using the food mill. Return the cherry mash to the crock pot.
  4. Add the honey and pure maple syrup to the crock pot and stir well. The Yakima Bing cherries around here are naturally sweet, so this is all the sweetener needed. Feel free to adjust to fit your personal taste.
  5. Turn the crock pot down to low and let it simmer there, with the lid propped a crack, for 11 hours or so. Start checking on this after about 9 hours and stop cooking it once it reaches the thick consistency that you want.
  6. Prepare your jars, lids, rings and canner. If you are new to water bath canning, or it has been a while, be sure to refresh your skills from a reliable and official source to guide you through this process.
  7. Fill your hot jars with the chai cherry butter leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove any bubbles and adjust the headspace one last time.
  8. Clean the rim of the jar thoroughly, apply your hot lid, and then the ring. Tighten the ring just until "finger tip tight", not too tight, but not loose either.
  9. Process you jars in a hot water bath for 5 minutes measuring the time after the water returns to a full boil. Adjust your processing time as necessary depending on your elevation.
  10. Remove your jars from the water bath to a cloth covered counter. Let them cool completely for 12-24 hours before testing the seals. Any jars that do not seal properly are still perfectly good to eat, just keep them in the refrigerator.
  11. Store your chai cherry butter in a cool dark place. This butter is ready to eat immediately, no wait time necessary.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 half pints

Last, but not least, if you are brand new to water bath canning be sure to follow best practices outlined by reliable sites such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation or the University of Missouri Extension. Home canning is something anyone can do!