Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brandied Cocktail Cherries

This rainy day is perfect timing – I have been meaning to share details on the making of things I've brought to our recent swaps, and this is just the break I needed.

For the June swap I focused on the seasonal bounty of stone fruit, and first up was cherries. Like most of you I imagine, I keep folders – both online and hard copy, depending on where I find them – of recipes I want to try out, and this Cocktail Cherries recipe had caught my eye on the KCRW Good Food blog a few months back. I was just waiting for the cherries to appear...and then they were here, in huge ripe tempting piles of red fruit, everywhere!

I scored 4 lbs. of gorgeous, plump pesticide-free cherries at the Civic Center Farmers Market for $9 and trundled home happily. The thing I really liked about this recipe is that aside from the fruit I had everything required already in my pantry: sugar, fresh lemon juice, cinnamon stick, fresh vanilla bean, cardamon pods, star anise, brandy and water. I added a couple extra cardamom pods, and substituted simple syrup for the agave nectar since sometimes agave can taste a little off to me, but otherwise stuck to the above recipe.

Cocktail cherries on simmer

One thing I did notice is that some of the cherries got a bit scalded. Whether this was from me simmering them too long (I did cook them a bit longer than called for to make sure the flavors really absorbed), or letting the heat get a little high, or the fact I used a larger pot which left them closer to the heat in a thinner layer across the bottom, I'm not sure...but aside from a couple having wrinkly skin, there were no real negative effects so I didn't worry about it.

Hot cherries

The other nice thing about this recipe is that you let the cherries cool to room temperature before putting them in jars, so there's no handling of hot fruit and liquid which definitely makes it easier. The recipe yielded six 8-oz. jars (though this will vary depending on the size of your cherries), with some left over for me to use for samples at the swap, but I did need to mix up some extra liquid to cover all the cherries. To do this I took some remaining simple syrup, some additional brandy and a little water – mixed it up in the saucepan used to cook the fruit to get any remaining cherry goodness out, and spread it between the jars to top them up.

Topping off the jars

The cherries were left whole, with the stem and pit still on, so while they do look great in a cocktail glass, you need to either remember to remove the pits before serving, or advise yourself/your pals before consuming. They are also excellent atop vanilla ice cream, yogurt or any dessert you want to add a little kick to, and the liquid can be added to your Manhattan or other drinks to taste too.

In my opinion these turned out so well I actually wish I had kept a jar for myself, but luckily they were very easy to make, so I'll just have to get another batch in jars before all the cherries are gone. Come to think of it, that's another thing that'd be perfect for this rainy day!

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