Candied cherries – sticky, sweet, and super delicious. Learn how to preserve cherries in a thick, glossy, and luxurious syrup.
Candied cherries in thick syrup, delicious on toast or on top of desserts, easy to make and perfect when you have a glut of cherries.
This a traditional Romanian way of preserving cherries. Dulceata meaning a jam that is sweeter than the usual fruit preserves and it contains whole fruit (when the fruit is small) or roughly chopped fruit pieces.
You can make dulceata with most kinds of fruit and berries, or with watermelon rind, for instance. I remember my great-grandmother’s candied cherries or strawberries, her rose or green walnut “jams”. I can’t really call them jams, as they were all thick, glossy, and very unlike a regular jam.
What do you need?
- Sweet cherries:
- The recipe can be made with either sweet or sour cherries.
- You will need 1 kg/ 2.2 lb, weighed after pitting them. You should buy or pick about 1,3 kg/3 lbs.
- The 1:1 ratio is important. Weigh the pitted fruit and use the exact amount of sugar, it doesn’t matter much if you have a little more or a little less fruit if the sugar amount matches.
- Granulated sugar
- Optional, they are not used in a traditional recipe.
- However, I added ½ tonka bean this year and the flavor is wonderful.
- You could add ½ vanilla bean or star anise, for instance.
How to make?
- Pit the cherries. It is preferable to use a cherry pitter, which will leave the fruit whole with just one hole in the middle.
- Wear an apron when stoning the fruit and do it over the sink, there will be a lot of splatters and you don’t want to stain your clothes.
- Place them in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot. I used a Dutch oven.
- Mix gently with 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs granulated sugar and lemon juice. If using, add the spices.
- Place the pot on the hob and bring gently to a boil. Skim the foam forming on top regularly.
- Stir gently from time to time, about every 5 to 10 minutes.
How long to cook the syrup?
- This is the tricky thing when making dulceata: the cooking time. There were times when I either didn’t cook them long enough for the thick syrup to form or I cooked them too long, so long that it became impossible to get the cherries out of the jar, so I had to throw away whole batches of dulceata, which had turned to stone.
- The cooking time will depend on how high or low the heat is, and very much on the size of the pot.
- If your pot is wide the candied cherries will need a shorter cooking time, if the pot is tall and less wide, they will need longer.
- It is recommendable to use a wide and narrow pot.
- Place a small plate in the freezer before you start cooking the jam.
- After the recommended 50 – 60 minutes, pour a few drops of the cooking liquid onto the cold plate. If the drops keep their shape and remain separated when you push your finger through them, the candied cherries are ready.
- If the drops reunite after being pushed, continue cooking them. Place the plate back in the freezer and check again after 5 minutes or so.
- The liquid will still look very thin, but it will thicken once it is completely cool.
- Don’t overcook the cherries, or the syrup will start to caramelize and once it sets in the jar you won’t be able to get it out anymore.
How to store?
Pour the fruit and the syrup into small sterilized jars. They should keep well without being canned in a dark cool place like a cellar. However, keep the jars refrigerated, if you are worried. They will keep for about one year (probably longer), either in the fridge or on the shelf.
How to use?
You can serve on toast or bread just like a regular jam, however, they are very sweet so a little syrup and 3-4 cherries go a long way.
Or serve them the old-fashioned Romanian way: a few cherries with a little of the syrup on a small plate and a glass of very cold water. A very fashionable summer refreshment during the 19th century.
Use for topping desserts, they are great on ice cream, served with waffles or pancakes.
Use the cherries, whole or chopped to add to cake fillings or bake them into cakes, brownies and so on.
The candied cherries are also great for decorating cakes. Take them out of the syrup, let them drain and dry shortly and place on top of cakes or other desserts.
More candied fruit or recipes using it:
- 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs sweet cherries weighed after pitting (Note)
- 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs/ 5 cups granulated sugar
- 1 lemon
- ½ vanilla stick OR ½ tonka bean OR 1 star anise optional
- Place a small plate in the freezer. Wash, dry, and pit the cherries. Weigh them to make sure you have 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs. If you have more or less, weigh the sugar to make sure you have the same amount of sugar as well, so a ratio of 1:1.
- Place cherries, sugar, lemon juice, and spices (if using) in a large, wide thick-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Stir gently to mix and slowly bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer the cherries for 50-60 minutes. Skim the foam forming on top regularly. Stir gently from time to time, about every 5 to 10 minutes.
- Start checking after 50 minutes already. Pour a few drops of the syrup onto the cold plate from the freezer. If the drops keep their shape and remain separated when you push your finger through them, the candied cherries are ready.
- If they reunite after being pushed, prolong the cooking time. Place the plate back in the freezer and check again after 5 minutes or so. The liquid will still look thin, but it will thicken once it is completely cool.
- Divide the cherries and their syrup between the sterilized jars. Let cool completely and store in a dark cool place (cellar) or in the refrigerator. They will keep for about 1 year.