Sunday, June 2, 2013

Boozy Sour Cherries: Three Ways

Sour cherries are generally available at my favorite farmers market from one vendor, on one Saturday each year. Which means that if you happen to out of town that week as I was two years ago or you sleep in as a friend did yesterday, you miss out. Last year, I "ryed" all of my sour cherries and water-bath processed them for shelf stability. Although the flavor was excellent, processing softened the cherries, giving them a less than optimal texture. This year, I decided to try three variations: Luxardo, rye and bourbon. 

Luxardo, as the producer's website says: is one of the very few liqueurs in the world produced by distillation. It is obtained from the marasca, a sour cherry variety exclusively cultivated by Luxardo. The distillate is allowed to mature for two years in Finnish ash vats (this wood does not lend its colour even after many years of maturing), and is then diluted and sugared. Maraschino Perfume is typical of marasca distillate, with an excellent intense aroma, fine and well amalgamated, without any aggressive note. The Maraschino taste is smooth but sharp, a sweet liqueur unusual for the punch of the distillate, which can be clearly perceived in spite of the moderate alcohol content. A rounded taste and a surprisingly persistent aroma.

Using Luxardo to preserve cherries makes a grown-up maraschino cherry that is perfect for many cocktails. Even better, it is easy: wash and sort through your cherries, removing any leaves, place them in a large jar and cover with Luxardo. As they are not processed, keep them in your refrigerator and allow at least a month to let the flavors develop. As I said, easy!

Rye-ing or bourboning sour cherries requires only one additional step: a little bit of (optional) sugar in each jar. Recipes I have read call for everything from no sweetener at all to 3/4 cup for each 2 cups of alcohol. The amount really depends upon your taste. You can heat the sugar and alcohol to form a syrup, or simply add both to your jars and shake to combine. 


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