Cherry Preserves and Brebis Pyrénées Cheese
2 pounds firm ripe dark sweet cherries
1/2 cup water
4 cups sugar (or use less, but increase the boiling time and closely manage the thickening process if the quantity of sugar is reduced)
1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
zest of one lemon rind
6 drops almond extract
Stem and pit the cherries. Save the juice. Cut large cherries in half. Cook cherries and water over low heat. Stir occasionally until the cherries have shriveled, about 30 minutes. Strain the cherry juice and set aside the fruit. Cook the cherry juice in the same pan with sugar and lemon juice, bringing to a boil over medium to high heat until the sugar dissolves. Boil hard for 3 minutes. Add the cherries and stir. Remove from heat. Cover with a cloth and set aside overnight or up to 24 hours. Return the fruit to the stove over a medium high heat. Bring to a boil and stir gently until the syrup is 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and add the almond extract and lemon zest. Skim off any foam and stir gently. Spoon the preserves into hot, clean small canning jars leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Seal jars with new two piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Cool, label and store. Alternatively, spoon the preserves into hot, clean jars and after cooling, store in the refrigerator until use.
Serve with Appellation d’origine contrôlée (A.O.C.) Ossau-Iraty Brebis Pyrénées cheese. Other cheese made from ewe’s milk such as Manchego may be served if Pyrénées Brebis is not available.