Summer is right around the corner and that means lots of fresh fruits and berries. It’s also the perfect time to start thinking about creative ways to preserve the left-over fruit.

Varenye (or varenie) is a traditional Eastern European whole-fruit preserve. In Russia and across Ukraine, varenye is made by cooking down berries, fruits, nuts and even rose petals, with sugar or honey. Most fruits and berries have enough natural sugar to not require too much of the processed stuff.

Varenye is more syrupy than jams or preserves. It also contains no artificial preservatives or gelling agents. Authentic home-made varenye is characterized by a transparent liquid syrup that takes on the natural color of the fruit.

Traditional varenye recipes balance cooking and steeping the fruit with sugar on a relatively low heat to extract the full flavor from the fruit. Berries in particular can be very fragile and sensitive to heat. The idea is to cook them down slowly so that the berries and fruit maintain their natural form and not break down completely. Cooking time will vary depending on the type of fruits you use — stone fruits and ones with tough skins will take a bit longer than cherries, strawberries and other berries.

Popular varenye varieties include cherry, strawberry, raspberry, apricot, plum, apple and pear. Walnut and hazelnut varenye are also tasty and make a great toping for cottage cheese and blini.

Let us know what you think of our cherry varenye recipe. Got a favorite home-made varenye recipe? We’d love to hear about it. Share it with us in the comments below or on Facebook.