Cherries are my favorite fruit, so when the season begins, I bring in many pounds of them to make this delicious French-style preserve and to put up in several other methods. (Please see last summer’s post about pitting cherries, making cherry-pit cordial, and more recipes to make the most of cherry season. And also a recipe for glaceed cherries.)
I put up these cherries at the beginning of the season to let them rest and soak for months. Come the holiday season, I’ll transfer them to small jars for gift giving and festive desserts. They’re wonderful over a plain custard, compatible ice creams, plain cakes, creamy cheeses or just spooned into a small dish for a light dessert. You won’t process these cherries. They’ll keep just fine for months covered with alcohol in a big jar.
I use a half-gallon jar to make enough for my needs — you can make any size you need, simply multiplying the recipe. I double this recipe. Buy or pick plenty of cherries, because we know some will end up in your mouth as you’re pitting.
For the liquor, I use equal parts vodka and brandy, with a measure of the Cherry Pit Cordial I made last summer. Different cultures use different liquors to their taste — in France, marc is favored, Italians might use grappa and so on. One year, I made this with bourbon and it was very good, but I don’t think Scotch would work.
If you didn’t make Cherry Pit Cordial last year, do make it this year with the pits from all the cherries you’ll use. It is absolutely delicious, something like Amaretto and also works very well substituted for Kirsh in cheese fondue. Go here to learn how.
Ingredients for 1 Quart:
• 4 pounds cherries
• ¾ cup of cane sugar
• ½ cup vodka
• ½ cup brandy
• ¼ cup Cherry Pit Cordial
• 1 vanilla bean
If you double the recipe, just the one vanilla bean is enough.
1. Wash, stem and pit the cherries, reserving the pits in a pint jar.
2. Partially dehydrate. Load the cherries onto trays of the dehydrator. I love my Nesco dehydrator that lets me set the temperature. I set it at 135 degrees Fahrenheit and in 4 hours, the cherries are shriveled but still moist.
3. Transfer the cherries to a canning jar and add the sugar. Shake the jar, roll it around to distribute the sugar. It will take a few hours sitting on the counter, occasionally shaken and rolled to finally get all the sugar mixed and beginning to form a syrup. When the syrup is beginning to form, add the vanilla bean down the side of the jar and then add all the alcohol, topping the jar so all the cherries are submerged.
4. Cap the jar with a plastic lid or use a piece of plastic wrap and then a two-piece lid to seal the jar. Give it a good shake to combine the liquors. For a day or two, continue to shake and roll the jar to get the sugar completely dissolved.
5. Store the jar of cherries in a cool, dark cupboard for at least a month, better for several. As the holiday season arrives, transfer the cherries and liquor to appropriate jars.
6. Don’t discard the vanilla bean — it still has lots to give. Pat it dry and put it in a jar of sugar, put it in a small bottle of either vodka or brandy to make your own vanilla extract or use it in any recipe the calls for a scraped bean. Likewise, if you use vanilla beans in custards or such, don’t discard the scraped pod but put it into a bottle of liquor to hold it for another use.
Be sure to dehydrate plenty more cherries. They store beautifully packed into zipper bags in the freezer just to be safe. A pound of cherries will yield about 1 cup dried to raisin consistency. You’ll want several cups to use for fall and holiday baking.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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