Under Pressure

IMG_1981Each year, spring arrives at the Big Saver at the end of the street with a splash.  For a few precious weeks, you can get ripe, ruby, plump, sweet, glorious cherries, for $0.99-$1.49 per lb.  Whole Foods prices would be somewhere in the neighborhood (pun intended) of $6.99 per lb.  (Go Santa Ana!)  This, my friends, is a moment you mustn’t pass up.  Grab it, and preserve it, for it will not last long.

Which brings me to last Friday evening.  Ashley and I have been waiting for this moment all year.  We had one goal: Make Brandied Cherries.  These are the perfect accoutrement to a cocktail, a simple cup of vanilla ice cream, or you can do as I do and eat them straight from the jar. This is my staple host/hostess gift.  You invite me over for dinner, you are likely to receive a little jar of my homemade gems.  I buy them when in season, make a ton of jars, and keep them on hand all year long.  I had told Ashley about my Big Saver secret many months ago, and we decided then that we had to do this together.    Friday night, she with her pressure cooker, I with my recipe, we embarked on a night of canning.

IMG_1984We began at about 7:30pm, and started with cocktails first, of course.  We got to work pitting the fruit, cherry juice exploding happily over my counter tops.  Sue, Ashley’s partner, dropped in to supervise and share some stories.  We played six degrees of separation from Martha Stewart, finding we both had experienced close encounters of the Martha kind… appropriate conversation when you consider the ongoing pitting, stuffing, spicing and canning that was happening all around us.  At about 10:30pm, we had accomplished our mission.  The cherries found a new home in their little jars, where they will marinate for the next two weeks, the lids “popped” sealing in the freshness of spring, and Ashley and I exchanged the literal fruits of our labor.  I gave her one of my concoction, and she gave me one of hers.

How to be Neighborly: Preserve the past, preserve the present. Enjoy it tomorrow.

So, folks, now I have about a dozen new jars ready and waiting, should anyone like to invite me to dinner.  Happy Spring!

Brandied Cherries

Recipe adapted from Delilah Snell, Food Preservation for Drinkers ClassIMG_1988

  • 1 1/2 lb cherries (washed, pitted or unpitted*)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c water
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 whole allspice seeds
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 c brandy
  • 4 – 8oz mason jars (cleaned & sterilized)

In a medium sauce pan, bring sugar, water, and lemon juice to a boil.  Turn off the heat and stir in the brandy.  Put the cherries in the jars with 1 cardamom pod, 2 cloves, 2 allspice seeds, 1 cinnamon stick. Leave about 1/4 inch headspace.  Fill the jars with the brandy mixture until cherries are covered, again, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace.

IMG_1975Wipe the rim of the jars with a clean damp towel to remove any wetness.  Put a clean lid on the jar, and loosely fit the band around the jar, but do not tighten.

Follow instructions for pressure cooker, if you have one.  If not, put the jars in a stock pot, and fill with water about 1 inch deep.  Allow the water to come to a boil, cover the pot, and process for 10 minutes in boiling water.  After 10 minutes, remove the jars from pot, place on a towel on the counter, and allow to cool.  The lids should “pop” and the center will have an indent.  This will signify you have successfully canned the cherries. If the lid does not “pop,” you will not be able to store at room temperature, place the cherries in the refrigerator to cool and preserve.  Allow the cherries marinate for at least 2 weeks, 6 recommended.  Once opened, keep in the refrigerator.  Once opened, they will last a long time in the refrigerator. The alcohol acts as a preserving agent.

Serve in your favorite cocktail (mine is an Old Fashioned) and don’t forget to “spill” some of the cherry juice in your cocktail.  Cheers!

(*) I like to pit my cherries because it makes it easier to eat, however, if you don’t have a cherry pitter, they are equally tasty with the pit in. Just warn your friends and neighbors about the presence of the pit, or else they will lose a tooth!

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