Five years ago I bought a little self-fertilizing dwarf sweet cherry whip from Jung’s nursery – a variety called Black Gold Sweet Cherry. Gardening with edibles is my passion; unfortunately my yard is less than ideal for such a hobby. The word “postage-stamp” comes to mind when describing it. In addition to its limited size, a large maple and a north-facing growing space limit sunlight. Despite these challenges, I have (in my humble opinion) managed to create a fairly pleasing landscape with a number of edibles. Over the years I have had some epic failures in my edible gardening adventures but also some smashing successes. This sweet cherry tree is the latter—a prolific producer of sweet cherries in a tight space with sub-optimum sunlight.
We picked a record 6+ pounds of cherries this year from this little tree. The unprecedented bounty caught me by surprised and sans a cherry pitter. Cherries have a short shelf life. No way to eat them all fresh and no desire to pit even 3 pounds with a paper clip.
Canning in syrup without pitting seemed the obvious choice. Canning with the pits has some cons. The pits dictate that you must eat them out of the jar as is—no future cherry pie or jam making as you could with frozen. On the pro side, canning with pits adds a lovely almond flavor to the cherries. If I use them as garnishes in drinks then I don’t think anyone will be overwhelmed with the nuisance of pit spitting. Olives have pits. Fresh cherries have pits. People can deal.
And since I’m using the preserved cherries in drinks, why not throw in a bit of booze with the syrup— spirited cherries. Given my intractable pioneer sentiments, I normally wouldn’t waste my precious cherry crop on such a frivolous food enterprise. “Do we really need spirited cherries to make it through the long, cold winter?” (This is the way my mind works, people—obsessive compulsive utilitarianism). But, actually I do need these to make it through the winter, and they will serve a purpose because back in January, at the Tosa Ladies Book Club annual planning meeting, I volunteered to host our Christmas Party. I have had the privileged of being a member of this book club for 10 years and I know from experience that a few of those gals take their cocktails very seriously. Spirited Cherries shall serve as the foundation and inspiration for the required holiday cocktail. I’m thinking Manhattans or Cherry Lime Rickies, but I’m open to suggestions.
Meanwhile, I’m off to Door county to pick more cherries so I’ll have plenty of cherries for cocktail recipe testing. My new Oxo cherry Pitter arrived in the mail and I’m itching to use it.
- 3 pounds cherries, washed only (do not remove stems or seeds)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup brandy (vodka or rum)
- ¾ cups bottled lime juice
- 1-2 vanilla beans
- Optional Additional Spices--1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise flower, or a few cloves
- Wash all canning jars, lids and screw caps. Place the jars in the hot water bath canner and simmer. Place the lids in a smaller sauce pan filled with water and keep those at a low simmer too. Set screw bands aside on a dry towel.
- In a non-reactive medium pot, add sugar, water, brandy, and lime.
- Make a slit length-wise down the vanilla bean. Scrape out the sticky seeds and place in the pot along with the vanilla bean pod. Add any other spices if desired.
- Bring the ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes.
- Add cherries and bring to a boil again--boil for 1 minute longer.
- Remove from heat and pack hot cherries and syrup into sanitized, hot jars. Leave ½ inch head space.
- Remove bubbles with a skewer, wipe rims with a damp cloth and place lids on jars. Tighten screw bands to finger tip tight and place in the canner making sure the jars are under water by at least an inch.
- Place lid on canner and bring to a boil. Start timing at boiling--15 minutes( at 1000 ft altitude or less)
- Once time is up, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Time for another 5 minutes.
- Remove jars from canner and allow to cool for 12 hours at least.
*You may substitute lemon juice for lime, however be sure to always use bottled and not fresh for canning recipes as the acidity level of fresh varies too much.
Wash the cherries but leave the stems and pits.
Bring the water, sugar, lime, brandy (or other spirit) and vanilla beans and pod (plus any additional spices) to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. This is the syrup.
Add the cherries to the syrup and bring to a boil again, boiling for about 1 minute.
See my instructions for Hot Water Bath Canning if you need instructions.
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