Cherries and sour cherries abound on the north side of Ikaria and we pick them in June by the kilo to make this delicious spoon sweet. The flavor of sour cherry spoon sweet is both, well, sweet and tart. The cherries taste a little like dried cranberries. They are small, with tiny pits that require patience to remove. The syrup ends up being very dark, almost black, and it takes extra care to make it. If you are inattentive at the final few minutes of simmering, you can easily burn the whole batch and end up with a caramelized sweet that tastes more like burnt sugar than fruit.
- Yield: 6 pints
- 2¼ pounds (1 kg) fresh sour cherries
- 2¼ pounds (1 kg) sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, strained
- Wash the cherries. Remove their stems. Using a cherry pitter or the loop end of a hairpin, push out the pits.
- Place ½ pound (225 g) (about a fifth) of the cherries on the bottom of a large, wide pot. Sprinkle with a fifth of the sugar. Repeat, layering cherries and sugar. Let the cherries stand for 8 hours or overnight, refrigerated.
- The next day, bring the cherry-sugar mixture up to room temperature by letting them stand unrefrigerated for about 2 hours.
- Place the pot over low heat and pour in the water. As soon as the mixture comes to a simmer, add the lemon juice. Simmer carefully over low heat, without stirring much but skimming the foam off the surface, until the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 30 to 40 minutes. As soon as it’s done, remove from the heat. Vyssino is one of the easiest of the spoon sweets to master, but the secret to making it well is in the timing and in those pivotal few minutes between knowing when the syrup is right and burning it. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Ladle the spoon sweet into 6 clean 1-pint (0.5-l) canning jars, filling each to about ¾ inch (2 cm) from the top. Loosely screw the lids on the jars. Place in a clean pot with enough water to come about two-thirds of the way up the height of the jars. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Using kitchen tongs, carefully remove each jar and with a pot holder or towel screw on the lids very well. Immediately flip the jars upside down to create an air vacuum. Let stand until cool. Store, well sealed, in a cool, dark place. The vyssino spoon sweet will last for months, even years, if stored properly.