Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brandied Cherries

Four Pint Jars of Brandied Cherries
A Lot of Cocktail and Dessert Potential

Recipe by Robin

When I posted a recipe for Cherries in Light Honey Sauce recently, my friend Lynn, a prolific inventor of party drinks, mentioned that these could be used in a new drink she’s concocted. When we chatted more about her ingredient list, it turned out to be ideal to “brandy” the cherries. Always on the alert for new recipes, I thought, why not brandy some fresh cherries instead of adding brandy to the preserved honeyed ones?

Basket of Cherries, Bottle of Brandy, Nutmeg
Active Ingredients
Bill Jurevich, third generation farmer and the grower of the largest heirloom cherry crop in our area had an old school recipe idea. Just trim the stems, pack the cherries into a jar, fill with brandy, and let sit in a cool dark place. He suggested pint jars instead of quarts because it “takes forever” to use up a whole quart of brandied cherries! He added that these would be ready around Christmastime. I didn’t think I could wait that long to try out Lynn’s exciting new drink.

Most modern recipes involve boiling together water, sugar, and a little lemon juice, then turning off the heat and adding the cherries and brandy. This “cooks” the brandy into the fruit, so you’ll only need to wait about a month before enjoying brandied cherry cocktails and dessert toppings. Do use pint jars, or even half-pint jars. Despite the simple preparation, these make unusual gifts.

After Trimming Stems Down
To honor tradition, and mostly because I don’t have a cherry pitter, I left the cherry pits in. The pits also add complexity to the flavor. Some cooks who pit the cherries will add a few pits at the bottom of the jar to bump up the flavor. Trimming the stems but leaving them on, as Bill indicated, is also traditional. I used evaporated cane juice (raw sugar) to add a bit more flavor, but you can substitute regular sugar if you prefer.

As you might have guessed, Jurevich Farms from Hollister provided the gorgeous cherries for this recipe. The Jureviches are well worth finding at the Monterey, Aptos, Felton, Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Hollister farmers market.

Four Jars Cherries Labeled with Names
Future New Old Fashioneds
Brandied Cherries
makes 4 pints

2¼ - 2½ lbs. Bing cherries
1¼ cups water
1¼ cups evaporated cane juice
2 tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups brandy

Wash and dry cherries, but do not pit or remove stems. Trim stems to about ½ inch.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in cherries and brandy. Cover pot and let steep until slightly warm, an hour or more.

Scoop cherries from pot into jars with slotted spoon. Pour in brandy from pot using a measuring cup with a spout. Top off with brandy or aged rum to cover cherries if needed. Screw on lids and store in cool, dark place for 1 month before using or gifting. 

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