Right now, "sweet cherries," the Bings, Lapins, Rainiers, and other varieties of edible cherries, are appearing in grocery stores all over the U.S. These are cherries that are usually eaten as is, by the handfull, or pitted and used in fruit salads and jello molds. But sweet cherries also work very well as brandied fruit. Pick or purchase sweet cherries as fresh as possible, and then brandy them, preserving them in sealed jars. Later, say during the holidays in December and January, brandied cherries as make lovely gifts. I've found that Rainiers by themselves don't really work as well as the darker sweet cherry varieties. Chelans and Lapins work especially well as brandied cherries. To make your own brandied cherries, you want the to use the freshest cherries possible, and the good quality brandy. I'd suggest something like Christian Brothers Brandy, at the very least, keepin in mind that if you wouldn't drink the brandy, you shouldn't use it to cook with. You might try the recipe below as is first, but many people add spices to their syrup; cloves, are very popular. I like to split a vanilla bean the long way, scrape the center, chop the bean up, and add all of it to the syrup mixture just before I turn off the heat.
- 6 pounds fresh sweet cherries
- 6 glass clean canning jars
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1-1/3 cups water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 cups brandy
- Wash, stem and pit cherries.
- Sterilize 6 pint jars and lids for a boiling water bath.
- Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan.
- Boil, stirring gently until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the syrup from heat.
- pour 1/4 cup of the hot syrup over cherries that are tightly packed to about an inch from the top of the freshly sterilized hot jars.
- Add 1/4 cup or so of the brandy, and more syrup if necessary, to each jar so that the cherries are covered.
- Gently shake the open jar to release any air bubbles then wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth to remove any sticky syrup residue.
- Close each jar tightly with the lid.
- Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. (Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the proper canning procedure.)
Brandied cherries are lovely over vanilla ice cream, or warm fudgey brownies, or pound cake or chocolate cake, or used as flambé, or added to a winter mix of dried stewed fruit. The dark red of the cherries looks lovely in the jars, and the brandy-and-syrup mixture is a wonderful flavoring on its own. You need to let the cherries "set" for a while, at least a few weeks, before trying them. They make a lovely holiday present; just stick a ribbon on the lid and you're good to go.