Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Brandied or Bourboned Cherries

It is a good thing that the brandied cherries we made last year were so good. Because, to be honest, it was one of my most exhausting days in the kitchen. The results were great but I highly suggest you do not drive out to Brentwood, pick 40 + pounds of apricots and 20 pounds of cherries and then head back to Oakland to brandy both, make two different kinds of apricot jam, and make both cherry and apricot chutney in one day. Oh, and there was some apricot syrup as a by-product as well. I am not exaggerating when I say I could not even look at cherries for weeks. The apricots, probably because they were easier to work with, somehow got a pass.

This year we planned ahead. First off, we decided that there was absolutely no reason to do both on one day. Second, we decided to pick one day and can the next. This past Saturday while I headed up to Napa to taste wine, Lisa went out to Brentwood and picked 12+ pounds of cherries. We met up for wine later that day and Sunday we canned. Even smarter, we limited ourselves to just brandied cherries, at least until we ran out of brandy and substituted bourbon for one batch.

The recipe below is really simple and from the comments I've gotten on twitter, guaranteed to impress your friends. The key is starting with good cherries. They have been late in the Bay Area this year and should continue to be available for a few weeks. We are actually hoping to try making homemade maraschinos in early June. The hardest part is pitting the cherries, which I admit is not really very much fun. After experimenting with several pitters, I decided that I preferred the old fashioned metal hand pitter. Of course, I also prefer a waiter's corkscrew. Feel free to experiment, as your hands may vary.

A note on the brandy and/or bourbon in the recipe below. When we ran out of brandy we substituted bourbon which has the same 40% alcohol content. Much like in cooking with wine I would not use a brandy you would not be willing to drink. On the other hand, no need to use your finest. I'd aim for mid range. Of course, as with wine, mid range varies by person. I'll also mention that I have enjoyed using the words bourboned and bourboning this week.

adapted from The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics by Jeff Hollinger, Rob Schwartz, Frankie Frankeny, and Georgeanne Brennan, Chronicle Books 2006

Brandied or Bourboned Cherries
12 pounds cherries
3 cups water
4 cinnamon sticks
3/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 3/4 cups brandy or bourbon

Pit cherries and pack into jars. Meanwhile heat water, cinnamon sticks, lemon and sugar over high heat until it reaches a boil. Allow to simmer 5-10 minutes until the spices infuse. Allow to cool slightly and add brandy. Remove cinnamon sticks. Ladle over packed cherries, finger seal and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath for 1/2 pint jars, 15 minutes for pint jars.

For us this recipe yielded 24 1/2 pint jars and 2 pint jars. I generally let sit at least 2 weeks before consuming, but have heard rumor they are good right away.


  1. Sounds wonderful! Loved the pictures.

  2. Jen
    I just opened the last jar from 2010 to see how they are. They still taste good, but have broken down a bit. They'd be fine for baking, but for cocktails I'd say use within a year.