Each summer, for a short window, neighboring orchards positively drip with ripe sweet cherries – blushing yellow Ranier Cherries, and Bing Cherries of such a dark maroon they almost look black. We eat as many as we can fresh, until they stain our mouths and our fingers, and I preserve the rest. I freeze many, dry a few, and I always make brandied cherries – consider them a grown-up maraschino.
Making Brandied Cherries
At their simplest, Brandied Cherries need only a handful of ingredients: cherries, brandy and sugar. But never one to let good enough alone, I also add sour cherry juice and a few spices. Sometimes I drop in a few star anise pods, other summers I add cloves. This summer, I dropped in a few vanilla bean pods and ceylon cinnamon sticks.
Selecting Your Cherries
Ranier cherries, a yellow fruit with a lovely red-hued blush, and the dark Bing cherries arrive at our farmers market in late June or early July, lasting only a few weeks. While I use a mix of both Ranier and Bing cherries, any sweet cherry will work in their stead, and many sour cherries will do nicely as well.
Preserving with Brandy and Sugar
I preserve most of my foods for the long winter ahead by means of fermentation (and you can find most of my fermented foods recipes here, as well as take an online course in fermentation here). I also love to use my dehydrator to make green veggie powder, but my favorite (and most indulgent) way to preserve summer’s bounty is by means of sugar and booze. Both of which infuse the sweet cherries with their flavor, and help to preserve their inherent flavors and freshness.
Any brandy will do, but I typically make my Brandied Cherries with cognac, that is when I can’t find locally made brandy. It’s a bit more expensive, but it also produces superior flavor. I also take care to use unrefined cane sugar (available here), which lends both sweetness and a burst of minerals.
Each summer I drop a few spices into the jars of fruit marinating in sweetened booze: star anise, cloves, ginger root. This year, I used Ceylon cinnamon (which offers sweeter cinnamon notes than the brash heat of cassia) as well as vanilla bean. I purchase both through Mountain Rose Herbs which specializes in affordable, ethically and sustainably sourced spices.
Soaking Up the Sun
Lastly I let the cherries and spice marinate in the sweetened brandy for at least a month in the windowsill in my kitchen, agitating the jar once a week. The warmth of the sun helps to infuse the cherries with the flavor of the alcohol, sugar and spice, and within a month to six week’s their ready for a transfer to a cold dark cupboard where they’ll stay for about a year without losing quality. We serve them dropped into cocktails, and spooned over ice cream, taking the opportunity to savor not only the cherries, but also their leftover juice.
Thinking about preserving?
Tell me in the comments what you plan to make this season, because I have a pretty big surprise for you next week.
|Brandied Cherries|| |
- Pluck the stems from the cherries, but keep the pits in, and drop the fruit into a quart-sized jar. Arrange the cinnamon stick and vanilla beans among the cherries.
- Place a medium saucepan on the stove over medium heat, and pour in the sour cherry juice, brandy and sugar. Warm the liquids together with the sugar until it dissolves completely, then remove it from the heat and pour it over the cherries. Seal the jars, and let the jar sit on a sunny windowsill in your kitchen for at least one month and up to six weeks, shaking the jar once a week, before transferring them to a dark cupboard. Eat them within one year.
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