Each summer, for a short window, orchards positively drip with ripe sweet cherries - blushing yellow Rainiers and Bings such a dark maroon they almost look black. If you're blessed with an abundance, take the time to make homemade brandied cherries.
These boozy, fragrant, vibrantly fruity cherries add flavor to homemade cocktails and drinks. And their flavor only improves with time, so make them this summer and tuck them into a cupboard until Christmas time arrives.
Jump to Recipe | What are they? | Making Brandied Cherries | Storing | Serving Suggestions
What are brandied cherries?
Brandied cherries are boozy, sweetened fruits that you make by soaking fresh cherries in a combination of rich syrup and brandy. They taste richly sweet, delightfully alcoholic, and, like homemade root beer, are a hallmark of authentic, early American cookery.
At their simplest, Brandied Cherries need only a handful of ingredients: cherries, brandy, and sugar. And most early American recipes call only for those simplest ingredients. You can also add spices if you like. Vanilla pairs particularly nicely with cherries.
Soaking fruit in sweetened alcohol was a popular way of preserving cherries, peaches, and other stone fruit before refrigeration and water bath canning became widespread.
Making Brandied Cherries
To make brandied cherries, you'll begin first by trimming the stem of cherries or removing them completely. Next, prepare a rich syrup with sugar and water. Simmer the cherries in the syrup for a few minutes, and then transfer them to a jar. Whisk the syrup with brandy, and then pour it over the cherries and seal the jar.
Before you make your first batch, there are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Select only the ripest, best fruit. Blemished fruit, over-ripe or under-ripe fruit make for poor preserves.
- Trim the stem. Most early American recipes call for keeping the stem on the cherry and trimming it short.
- Prick the cherries once with a toothpick. You'll simmer the cherries for a few minutes in a hot rich sugar syrup, and pricking them should prevent them from bursting.
- Try substituting cherry juice for water. While not an authentic ingredient, it can amplify the flavor of your brandied cherries.
- Keep the sugar content high. It's tempting to cut the sugar in the recipe (who needs more sugar, right?), but sugar acts as a preservative in this recipe - just like alcohol.
How Should You Store the Cherries?
Traditionally, cherries were preserved in brandy in the summer and stored at room temperature or in root cellars until winter. The high sugar content and the high alcohol content helped to preserve the foods and keep them safe.
Early American cookbooks like Miss Corson's Practical American Cookery (1886) and Aunt Babette's Cookbook (1889), recommend simply sealing the cherries in a jar and that's it.
By contrast to traditionalists, modern preservers often use less sugar and recommend storing brandied cherries in the fridge or canning them in a water bath for about 10 minutes, increasing that time at higher elevations.
Niki Jackson says
Fabulous. Made this recipe last January, teachers got 6 with syrup in little containers for Christmas. The rest didn’t last long, ice cream, chocolate cake and homemade sangria. Wasn’t enough, made double batch this year.
Simple and great recipe! Any suggestions on what to do with the leftover 'juice'? It's too yummy to waste.
I made some brandied cherries and after about 3-4 weeks, they were quite bubbly, apparently fermenting. Are they safe to eat? I thought the alcohol and syrup would have preserved them, but not I'm not sure.
Thank you for the recipe, the addition of spices sounds wonderful. Have you ever tried adding cocoa nibs? Just curious. I was wondering if these coukd be done with honey rather than sugar. I appreciate your time, thanks again.
You could try and let us know how it goes.
V Blackert says
I would try this ( without the addition of canned cherry juice) but by warming the cognac aren't you boiling all the alcohol out of it?
That’s why you have to let the syrup(water, sugar and vanilla) cool to room temperature before adding the alcohol.
I was wondering how long they last once the seal is opened? I'm assuming the "up to one year" comment is for sealed jars? ThanKS,
They don't really go bad - the alcohol acts like a great preservative.
I'm excited to try this but wondering about leaving them on my window sill.
I'm in Australia, window sill temps get up past 35 degree Celsius.
Can I store them in a cooler dark place straight away?
My husband just pits the cherries, covers completely with brandy, and puts them in the back of the frig until the holidays. Delicious and not nearly as sweet.