|Preserved cherries in alcohol.|
I happened upon these cherries by accident, actually. I was bummed that I had missed the end of strawberry season (I had put up 14 lbs earlier this spring, but really wanted to do another 20 or so....) and was calling all the local u-pick farms to see if anyone had any left. In response to one of my calls I got a recording saying that strawberry season was over, but cherry and blueberry season was upon us and they would be available for pickup on July 26th. The exact day I was calling. So I got lucky on that one.
So what to do with 10 lbs of cherries? Well, first I would strong recommend a pitter. They happened to have them for sale at the farm I picked the cherries up at, so I bought one on an impulse. I normally HATE anything that only does one job (and a job I only need done a few times a year, at that). But I can't imagine what a pain hand pitting 10 lbs of cherries would have been.
But before I started pitting I made drunken cherries (which you don't pit). More on those in moment.
After pitting I put cherries on two trays of my dehydrator to make dried cherries. For this I used the best of the best cherries (well, the second best...). Another two cups of cherries I saved to make fruit leather. The rest, around 3 lbs, I used to make cherry jam, ala the pomona pectic recipe.
I know, you would think 10 lbs of cherries would go farther. If they weren't so expensive I would get more (I still may...) :)
I know exactly what you are thinking... "what are drunken cherries?" Essentially they are cherries soaked in liquor and sugar for several weeks. The liquor/sugar mixture seeps into the cherries, and the cherries in turn flavor the syrup, turning it into rich, thick, cherry goodness. It is good for mixing into adult beverages (remember, it is still alchohol as the alchohol is never cooked off), used as a filling or topping for a cake, drizzled over ice cream... pretty much anything you would use a flavored syrup for. And the recipe is super simple, requiring no cooking at all. You don't even have to boil water. And they keep for up to a year. How's that for awesome!
- Cherries, stemmed but NOT pitted, enough to fill desired number of jars (I like pints best, half pints didn't seem to hold many cherries) Use the best ripe yet firm cherries you can get.
- Unflavored liquor of choice. Recommended choices- spiced rum, bourbon, whiskey, or vodka. For mine this year I used what I had on hand, which was spiced rum and Canadian Club... (not mixed together, I did two jars of each) I know CC is probably not the optimum whiskey to use, but it's what I had.
- White sugar
Take your stemmed cherries and fill your jars, making sure they are packed in well without being squished. Pour sugar over the cherries, shaking the sugar down until the jar is filled to about 1/3 of the way from the bottom. Pour liquor of choice over the cherries until they are all covered (at this point I often find I can easily get a few more cherries in the jar). Lid the cherries and shake to mix the liquor and sugar (don't worry, you're not trying to dissolve the sugar completely, you're just making sure there are no air bubbles). Check the level of the liquid and add more as needed. Replace the lid and you're done! Simply store in a cool dark place. If you happen to walk by them it doesn't hurt to give them a shake, but even if you don't the rest of the sugar will slowly dissolve. You can enjoy the cherries after they have steeped for two weeks, and you can keep them in a cool dark place for up to a year as the alcohol preserves the mixture pretty effectively.
So much easier than jam making. Of course, cherry jam is easily one of the most delicious, decadent tasting substances on the planet- easily worth the time and effort (and making jam is far easier than you think if you've never tried it before). As my favorite preservation book says "Cherry preserves are to strawberry jam what a red satin gown is to a puffy pink prom dress"(Put em' Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton).
Got cherries? Be sure to check out the rest of summer fest. There are sure to be a TON of great recipes!