Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If Life is a Bowl of Cherries...

Ever since I got my handy-dandy cherry pitter, I love cherries. So much easier, and more fun, than pitting with a knife. Sour cherry season is pretty much over, and I had one quart left. So, seeing as I had some time on my hands this past weekend, and some sweet cherries too, I made rummed cherries (using sour cherries) and brandied cherries (with sweet cherries). I started with some recipes from reliable sources, and tweaked here and there. Here are the recipes I used, with citations:

Brandied Cherries
from the Art of the Bar by Hollinger & Schwartz, and recommended by Bobby at Drink Dogma and Marleigh at Sloshed! (adjusted proportions to match what I had on hand):

2 pounds dark, sweet cherries
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2/3 oz fresh lemon juice
1 small cinnamon stick (used Mexican stick cinnamon)
3 1/2 oz brandy (Paul Masson Grande Amber)

Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the cherries and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, remove the cinnamon sticks, and stir in the brandy. Yummy, and I'm going to try with a cocktail tonight.

Rum-med Cherries
Posted on the Chanticleer Society by user Evo-lution, apparently for a competition.
½ cup soft demerara sugar (used brown sugar, but will try again with demerara)
½ cup water
1-2/3 oz fresh lemon juice

1 cinnamon stick (Mexican cinnamon again, all I had)

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Half a scored vanilla pod (used a dash of vanilla extract, didn't have any beans on hand)

1 pound sweet pitted cherries (Bing)

1 cup aged rum (Cubaney 5 Anejo)

Wash and pit cherries. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cherries and rum and bring to the boil. When liquid begins to boil, reduce heat to a light simmer, add cherries and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add rum and cool immediately. Transfer cooled cherries and liquid to clean glass jars and refrigerate.

What am I Doing in the Pits?

After these adventures, I found myself with extra cherries (mostly sour), and I found myself with a bunch of cherry pits. Thought it might be interesting to see whether they have any flavor to them on their own, so I made some cherry pit syrup, and stuck some pits into some high-proof spirit to infuse. Still waiting on the infusion, but the syrup is pretty mellow.

Used 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and a pound's worth of cherry pits. Simmered 10 minutes, then cooled completely.
It's a lovely pink color, from the bits of cherry still left on the pits, with hints of cherry flavor and nuttiness. Not as much flavor as I would have liked, unfortunately. I did make a couple of cocktails with it, but the flavor was too light to come through much.

Thanks to Erik Ellestad over at Underhill Lounge, I later learned that I could have made Ratafia, or perhaps Cherry Pit Ice Cream. Next time, I have to smash up the pits, and give one of those recipes a try. I should've known that a quick blog search would turn up some great experiments already run by trusted bloggers! Next time, I'll do that first.

The Rest of the Cherries

went into this delicious sour cherry streusel pie. YUM.


erik_flannestad said...

I dunno, it's probably illegal in the MidWest to macerate sour cherries in booze and not make Cherry Bounce. You might want to check with your local law enforcement agency...

~Sonja~ said...

Please don't report me, I'll get right on that! Yum. ;-)

Rafe said...

Knowing that you are also in chicago, where did you find a source for the sour cherries? I made brandied cherries recently, and they are head-over-heels better than traditional maraschino cherries out of a jar. But I want to try and make some cherries that are more similar to the Luxardo cherries. As such, I need to find some sour cherries! I've tried Stanley's and Whole Foods to no avail. Did you get yours from Green City?


~Sonja~ said...

Hi Rafe,
I got my fresh sour cherries at the Libertyville Farmers Market last week. The farmer told me that the season for sour cherries was pretty much done (it's shorter than sweet cherries). I also got some two or three weeks ago at the Andersonville farmers market (Wednesday afternoons) - they were frozen and had been machine-pitted, but in fairly good shape. Good luck, and let me know how they turn out!

Tony Harion said...

I wonder if any liqueurs can be made with the pits after they are toasted. I imagine they would give out an amazing nutty flavor.

My brandied cherries didn´t turn out very nice the last time I tried (around Christmas last year). They lost almost all their color and taste to the brandy and rum and became a pale white – almost zombie cherry like. Probably I had too much alcohol and very little sugar in the mix. The liquid from the jar is awesome though! NOTE: I didn´t use any of these recipes.

For a while I’ve been willing to try these recipes, but I guess I’ll have to wait until around Christmas again, since any other time in the year the cherries are pretty hard to find around here.

Let us know which one you liked the best!

~Sonja~ said...

Great idea, Tony - I'll have to give that a try too. I love more excuses to buy cherries! And sorry you can't find them this time of year - they're plentiful here right now (but won't be around Christmas).

I am continuing to taste & compare, and will report back.


Anonymous said...

Sonja, I've had cherry pits sitting in grain alcohol for a month to make a bitters. I'm going to let it go for another month or so to get the intensity I'm looking for. My unsolicited advice: be patient.

Carolyn said...

Hi Sonja!

This is Carolyn, your biggest fan in San Francisco. Hope you'll be out this way again soon. Anyway, just wondering - how long do these cherries keep in the fridge? Does the booze preserve them enough for a long shelf life?

~Sonja~ said...

Hi Carolyn! Nice to see you here!

The cherries should keep in the fridge for a couple of months, as long as they are submerged fully in the liquid. I am still enjoying the rummed cherries I made with the first sour cherries of the season, as well as a batch made with sweet cherries the week after. I have a batch of brandied cherries that are still really good, from when I wrote this post.