THE cornerstone of Greek sweets are the preserves made with the fruits of the seasons. Each home has several different jars of fruit in the pantry, and guests are offered a teaspoon with a glass of water as a welcome to the house.
This is one of the easiest spoon sweets. The true color is a quite unattractive murky yellow, so islanders add a few drops of red food coloring. Instead of that, I prefer to boil a red beet with the cherries, a trick I learned from Tunisian cooks.
In a large bowl, combine the cherries and sugar and toss well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Transfer the cherry mixture to a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let cool completely. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries to a colander set over a large bowl.
Bring the syrup to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Add the beet (if using), the lemon juice and the syrup from the bowl. Boil the syrup until it reaches
Return the cherries to the pan and boil for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract and let cool completely. Discard the beet and pour the cherries into clean jars. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
© 2000 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.