Featured Cocktail Garnish: Brandied Cherries
This episode’s featured cocktail is…well…not a cocktail at all. But it is a recipe that we recently developed for Brandied Cherries. These delicious little flavor bombs are made from tart (or sour) cherries – usually the Montmorency variety – and the ripeness window for these cherries is a pretty narrow one – and we happen to be right in the middle of it here in mid-July. So, if you live near upstate New York, Michigan, or the Pacific Northwest where the majority of these fruits are grown, then you might just be in the position to grab a few quarts and try your hand at brandying them.
The recipe below is a fusion of one by The Spruce Eats and Alex Luboff’s recipe for brandied cherries from the Speaking Easy Podcast. Basically, we took what we thought were the best aspects of each.
The ingredients you’ll need are as follows:
1.5 pounds of sour cherries
6 oz (by weight) of sugar
6 fluid ounces of water
8 oz of Brandy – we used the ubiquitous E&J VS, which you can purchase by the handle
1 cinnamon stick
1 oz fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon of salt
This should ideally yield about 2 pints of brandied cherries, so feel free to scale it up or down as you see fit.
The process for making these cherries is pretty simple if you’ve ever canned anything before. But if you don’t have any experience canning, it might make sense for you to do a little outside research before you commit because there IS a potential for messing this up if you’re a beginner. Essentially, though, the production steps are as follows:
First, you’ve got to pit and de-stem your cherries. This is a step that wasn’t done in the Speaking Easy recipe, but it’s super easy if you’re willing to part with less than 15 bucks for a cherry/olive pitting tool on Amazon. My advice? Definitely de-pit your cherries. But make sure you do it right before you brandy the cherries because they’re super delicate and have thin skins. You don’t want these sitting in their own juices overnight.
Next, combine your water, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and spices (clove and cinnamon) in a saucepan or pot on the stovetop, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Once you’ve let all those flavors get to know one another, you add your Brandy, continuing to stir over VERY low heat until the liquid reduces a little. Remember you’re adding alcohol to a heat source here, so be sure to follow instructions and use EXTREME caution.
Then, once you’ve got the brandy syrup where you want it, add the cherries and their juices, stirring very gently until you’re confident that juice is evenly incorporated.
At this point, it’s time to can, and we recommend doing this in a large stock pot where you can set up a boiling hot water bath. This process in itself contains several important food safety steps, so be sure to check out this canning resource if you have any questions about the process.
Once you’ve canned your brandied cherries, we’d recommend storing them in the pantry for about 6-8 weeks before opening, which allows the brandy, fruit, and spices to really macerate and develop flavor. Then, once you open them, your cherries should last a month or two in the fridge, which means you should make sure you’ve got some fun cocktail projects lined up before crackin’ open that jar.