Friday, July 1, 2011

Brandied Cherries

I have really been working out the kinks with this brandied cherry thing. Real brandied cherries are so much better than the day-glo maraschino cherries you can buy at the grocery store, and a Manhattan is my favorite cocktail. Perfect way to preserve summer's glory, right? Not so easy, perhaps.

First I tried just packing the cherries in the jar with a solution of equal parts brandy and sugar. I thought this was a sure thing, because there are lots of recipes like this online, and I figured the brandy would definitely preserve them, so that's the recipe I gave on the Edible Santa Fe website. They were delicious after a few days, but a few weeks later, they are kind of soft and actually fermenting a little. I don't think this is bad, just surprising. 

I also tried one with equal parts brandy, water and sugar. There are lots of recipes like this out there too - most just say to pack the raw cherries in this solution and you should be all set. I noticed that these started fermenting within a few days, but according to Leslie Land, that's a good thing. I just discovered her fabulous blog - she has been a New York Times garden columnist and a chef at Chez Panisse, so I'd guess her advice is pretty reliable! Finally I settled on following her recipe pretty closely, to avoid any further mishaps. I made 9 half-pints, some with rum, some with Jack Daniels, because I ran out of brandy.

It's up to you whether to pit the cherries or not. Some say the pits add a deeper almond note to the flavor, but be sure to warn your guests if you do leave them in!  I had the most amazing brandied cherry in a whiskey sour with evergreen syrup at the Seattle Art Museum cafe last year, and the bartender had made them herself with black pepper and tarragon, so I wanted to try adding those. Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla would also be great additions. I won't bother to post a recipe, just point you to Leslie's - Real-Deal Brandied Cherries. I added the black pepper and tarragon to one of the jars, but for the others I think I'll just wait a few weeks or maybe until they finish fermenting before adding anything.
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