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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Preserving summer's bounty: 2 recipes for brandied cherries -- 1 sweet and 1 spicy

The winter table can look quite bleak when sticking to a small grocery budget. By preserving some of the abundance of summer, in vinegars, preserves, pickles and sauces, I have interesting ingredients to add to the menus, during those lean months of December, January, February and March. 

I also enjoy being prepared for last-minute gift-giving (hostess gifts, thank you gifts, birthdays between friends and just-because gifts). These last minute gifts just take a quick decant into a lovely bottle or jar, a ribbon bow and a pretty little handmade label.

This week, our cherry trees are ripening. In addition to simply plucking them from the branches and popping into my mouth, I like to save just a hint of summer's grand flavor.

Brandied cherries can be as simple as sweet cherries infused with a brandied sugar syrup, or for a boost in flavor, add some whole spices to your solution. We have two cherry trees in our yard, one with sweet red cherries, and the other with purple Bing-style cherries. I like to make the sweet solution for the purple cherries, and the spiced solution for the sweet reds.

For basic sweet brandied cherries:

Simple Brandied Cherries

2 lbs sweet cherries
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/3 cup brandy
3 to 4 pint-sized jars

Sterilize jars (about 3 to 4 pints, one of which will be for leftover syrup).

Pit cherries. (I use a pitter, but every few cherries, the pit is stubborn and I have to push it out with a small straw or coffee stir stick.)

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Add pitted cherries and simmer 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in brandy. With a slotted spoon, scoop cherries into sterile jars. Add brandy syrup to cover. Pour remaining brandy syrup in a separate jar, to use on ice cream, crepes, cake, or in trifle.

Refrigerate for a month before using. Will keep in the fridge for a year.

For a heavier brandied cherry, with a spicy note, these Spiced Bandied Cherries make a nice gift, or a holiday table addition.

Spiced Brandied Cherries

1  1/2 to 1  3/4 lbs sweet cherries
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
small pinch (about 8 seeds) of cardamom seeds
1 cup brandy
1 quart jar with lid

Sterilize jar.

Pit cherries, set aside.

In a medium saucepan bring sugar, water, lemon juice and spices to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and add brandy and cherries. Toss cherries well in syrup.

Spoon cherries and spices into jar, covering cherries completely with spiced brandy syrup. If I am short of syrup, I mix up equal parts of brandy and water by the tablespoon, to top the cherries (or I just eat several cherries right then and there).

Cap the jar, and give it a gentle shake. For the first month, every few days, the jar needs turning, to insure all of the cherries are infused with the brandy solution. Store in the refrigerator for 6 weeks before consuming.

If gifting these, after the "ripening" process, I decant into pretty little 1/2-pint or 1-pint jars. I add 1 fresh cinnamon stick to each jar, more for looks than flavor. And I make sure to include "keep refrigerated" on my label, along with suggestions for use.

Spiced Brandied Cherries are delicious spooned over vanilla ice cream, plain cake squares (vanilla or chocolate), in triffle, dipped in chocolate, or simply in a dish on the dessert buffet during the holidays. My personal favorite is chocolate-covered cherries. I drain the cherries well, then dip in melted dark chocolate.

Either of these recipes can also be processed in a hot water bath, for 10 minutes, if you wish to store them in a cupboard or pantry.


  1. Is this a good year for your cherries? Meaning do you have a sparse crop or a bounteous one? The cherries aren't ripe around here yet, but last year because of weather, some trees didn't have any.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      It looks like a pretty good year, not a huge crop, but better than many years. For some reason, the blackbirds and squirrels aren't bothering the cherries too much this year. We usually lose most of the cherries to them. We have had years when it poured rain during blossom time, and there just weren't any bees out to pollinate. I'm very glad that wasn't the case this year.

      I hope the trees in your area provide a large crop of delicious cherries.

  2. I've never tried this before. Hmm. My husband and kids picked a LOT of cherries last week (the sours are already in the freezer) and we need to do something to preserve some of the sweet cherries. Do you have other ideas? Have you ever frozen them? If so, what do you use them in?

    We are having a good cherry year--last year Michigan lost most of its cherries so it's nice to get some again. I think my hubby marks time in the summer by what fruit he wants to pick. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      Later this week I'll be dehydrating some of the cherries, for baking. Dried cherries are SO good! I'm already dreaming about cherry-almond scones, I've only frozen sour cherries for making pies later, but not sweet ones.

      You can also can sweet cherries in sugar syrup. My mom used canned Bing cherries in a favorite jello salad mold when I was growing up.

      I remember hearing about so much crop devastation last year in the Midwest. Good to know that some crops are much better this year!

  3. That's funny that you mention preserving cherries to eat in December because fresh cherries are something we always have at Christmas :)

    These look really tasty and so much better for you than maraschino cherries.

    1. Hi Economies,
      I love maraschino cherries, but don't like the colorings. My kids used to love when I'd make Shirley Temples for them, with 7-Up and one of these brandied cherries, instead of maraschinos.

      Your Christmas dinner must look so different from the typical Christmas dinner in the US, with all your summer fruit in December.


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