Monday, August 10, 2009

Confronting a Loss

True to my word, I spent this past Saturday mourning the end of the cherry season. As the Cheerful Cherry folks had suspected, this past weekend was indeed the end of the road for the cherries this year. So I dedicated about 80% of my Greenmarket budget to my favorite cherry vendor, and hauled 3 quarts home.

Almost immediately I had them in my largest colander, washed, dried and ready for consumption.

I sat cross legged on my living room floor, colander in front of me, gazing into the deep dark purple tangle of fruit, melancholy as can be. I couldn't stand the thought of no more cherries next week. After experiencing the deep pleasure of a truly good cherry from a local orchard, those big hard specimens in the supermarkets just aren't an option anymore.

So I got to work pitting....I would preserve these perfect little spheres...somehow.

Thank god I had some brainless Bravo shows on the DVR, otherwise I don't know how I would have gotten through it. But I was buoyed by the sheer stupidity of Miami Social and by the prospect of sweet dark cherries in the middle of winter (or perhaps the end of summer). And of course by my occasional snacks (you can only preserve the perfectly unblemished ones you see, all others must be...disposed of).

It's not hard to spot the hand of a cherry pitter...

Soon my task was complete. The cherries were pitted and ready to meet their brandy-soaked fate, which they did gracefully.

Luckily, I had a few left over, not enough to fill an entire jar, so I could not possibly can them. Instead, they are sitting in my refrigerator in a thick liquor infused syrup, ready to adorn lovely desserts, or perhaps just a dessert spoon.

Brandied Cherries
Yields 3 pints

2 quarts pitted, stemmed cherries
1 cup sugar (I went for 1/2 cup per quart, but if your cherries are not as sweet as mine, you may want to up it)
brandy to cover

Sterilize three glass jars and lids, making sure that seals are new. You can either boil them for 10 minutes or simply run them through the dishwasher (I choose the latter, as it is significantly easier).

Toss cherries in large bowl with sugar. Add to large, heavy pot (I use an enameled dutch oven) with 1/4 cup of water and bring to a bare simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon cherries into three waiting jars, packing relatively tightly. Divide any syrup that has accumulated between the three jars, being careful not to allow the syrup to fill the jar by more than 1/3. Pour brandy over the cherries to cover, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top of the jars. Seal.

There seem to be two schools of thought with regards to processing. Mrs. Beeton apparently feels that processing is not necessary, as the brandy will sufficiently kill any and all bacteria. In fact, she advocates for simply mixing the fruit and sugar together, ladling into the jars, and adding brandy to cover with no simmering at all! And then storing in a cool dark cabinet for several years (or until you feel like eating them). Others suggest that you process the jars in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. I leave this step up to your best judgment. The preparation of brandied cherries is quite personal after all.

After processing (or not), turn the jars on their head, righting them after 30 minutes. If a vacuum seal does not occur, store jars in the refrigerator. Otherwise they should be kept in a cool dark cabinet until the glorious day on which they will be consumed.


Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Oh, Laura..I LOVE the cherry preserving story. I am crazy about cherries..I eat them till I am ill every year. My husband just scratches his head and says, "Well, every year ya do it till you make yourself sick". I get a stomach ache from eating too many. And I don't even care. It's worth it. Love Mrs. Beeton too. I have book somewhere around here of hers.
I am sad to see Cherry Season come to a close too...
I'll sure miss 'em.
See ya next year.


annechovie said...

These look cherries! You are making me hungry!

Dustjacket Attic said...

I did enjoy your cherry loss story, quite bittersweet ;o I love cherries too.

Rob M. said...

I'm not a big cherry fan, but peaches are in season here in Ontario, and they are delicious!

Laura [What I Like] said...

Farmhouse Kitchen - I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one.

Annechovie - Yes, yes they are delicious. I'm making myself a little sad thinking about it now.

Dustjacket Attic - I haven't been this depressed all year...I mean it's hard to get too upset about the end of say, rhubarb (although I kind of was) but cherries are something special.

Rob - We can't be friends anymore. Who doesn't like cherries! You've semi-redeemed yourself with the peaches comment though. I adore them as well and they've actually been amazing this year down here.

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