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Brandied cherry question

A poster on the SF board asked ...

"Do you follow proper canning type techniques, or just trust the bourbon to keep stuff from growing in the jar?"

That was in response to someone who mentioned a local joint to buy dried cherries to brandy ... interesting idea. Also someone asked if frozen cherries are worth brandy-ing.

Anyway, when I brandy fresh cherries, I rely mainly on the alchohol. To me, heating would destroy the texture of the cherry.

I do clean the jars very well though don't really steralize. The other caveat is I keep them in the fridge.

So what is the opinion about the safe way to brandy cherries?

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  1. I mentioned the dried cherries in the original post. I just toss enough into a small jar
    to leave some room at the top and then fill to cover with something strong. Currently it's 100 proof rye, and I've used 80 proof bourbon. A few weeks in the fridge and they're ready for the manhattan party. The first time I remember having them was at the bar at the Old Coast Inn in Ft. Bragg, CA where they had a big jug full soaking in vodka (don't go out of your way, but it's a decent place to stop on your way through town ...). I asked the bartender, OMGWTFBBQ! What are these they're great?! when I got a drink with a toothpick with about five of them on it and she divulged the secret recipe above.

    I figure the dried cherries were going to preserve themselves all on their own, as would the bourbon, so mixing them together shouldn't cause any untoward reactions.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

      Dang! That sounds GOOOOD, Manhattan lover that I am. Sounds like a good Xmas present too!

    2. I have two batches of sour cherries in the fridge, one batch in bourbon and the other in maraschino liqueur. When I run out of cherries, I hold onto the booze in the fridge until the next batch of sour cherries comes in. Then I put them in the old jars and top them off with more booze. Been doing this for about four years now. It never occurred to me they might go bad--and they never have.

      10 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        Question: I made some a couple of months ago, according to an earlier chowhound post. I finally tried them...the cherries are rock hard. Are they supposed to be that way? Do they soften if they come to room temp?

        1. re: Tom P

          Did you use sour cherries? Regular cherries usually puff up alot.

          1. re: Tom P

            I don't understand that at all. Never had it happen--with either sour or sweet cherries. And no, mine are munchable right out of the fridge. Were the cherries ripe and edible when you first put them up?

            1. re: JoanN

              They were a beautiful bunch of cherries when I started, very fresh. They are, I guess, kind of edible. Crunchy! But I was thinking they would be soft. I'll have to try again, I guess, not sure what I did wrong.

              1. re: Tom P

                Crunchy? Did you remember to pit them... ? :)

                Dried cherries soften a little from their dried state but are still a bit leathery. Gives them a nice not-immediately-obvious-what-you're-eating character.

                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                  Wait a minute. Rock hard is a different description than crunchy. I'm guessing you might have picked up the tip from one of my posts which is just putting unpitted cherries, sugar and brandy in a jar and sticking them in the fridge a couple of months.

                  Yes they are crunchy, but I don't think significanlty different than the crunch or snap of a fresh cherry.

                  They will not be soft like a pie filling cherry. If you want that texture, then they would need to be cooked.

                  1. re: rworange

                    You mean he might be eating the pits? Yeah that would make them somewhat crunchy!
                    I didn't remove my pits either, where did I read that it imparts an almondy flavor, but they still puffed up pretty good, I used giant size Bing cherries. I think I even left the stems on.

                    1. re: coll

                      Ha! No, I am not eating the pits. And yes, rworange, that is what I did. I guess I expected them to be soft. They are pretty damn hard. What do you do with them?

                      1. re: Tom P

                        In no way could mine be called "pretty damn hard." A bit crunchy? Yes. Pretty damn hard? Absolutely not. I save the pitted sour cherries in Maraschino liqueur for Manhattans. (Only problem is when guest guzzle the drink to get to the cherries. Pacing! Pacing!) I use the sweet cherries in bourbon or brandy in baked goods, lighly sauteed in butter with a bit of the syrup to serve on ice cream and pancakes and with duck.

                        1. re: Tom P

                          Usually as is for dessert. One year I pitted them and served them on top of pound cake or ice cream but I didn't like the appearance or less crunchy texture.

          2. I have a jar of Girottines, imported from France, in my fridge right now. They are morello cherries marinated in kirsch and with a bit of sugar. OMG they are wonderful. MY DH uses them in his manhattan. I just eat them out of the jar or over ice cream.

            1. I have some bottled sour cherries in syrup that I just got. Was planning to put them on the bottom of a souffle dish and then put chocolate souffle on top. I bet your boozed cherries would be even better.

              But I'm not clear on what cherries you all are using. Are you using dried sour cherries? Aren't those usually sugared? If so, does that matter?

              1. My ma (old school Italian lady) always did sweet cherries - unpitted - in pure grain alcohol - no refrigeration or other preservation needed - they arent what i'd call delicious, buta couple when ur feeling like a drink - and ur floating - u do get kinda used to em . And when the cherries r all gone - u have this cherry flavored alcohol to gargle with when u have a cold. needless to say , i have a lot of colds - whenever I can.

                2 Replies
                1. re: dibob817

                  all you is quality fresh cherries and good brandy. fill sterilized jars and lids with the two ingrediants and hand tighten the lids. now put in a dry cool place and let it age. we have ten to fifteen year old cherry brandy. the cherries change from red to white color. thats when your ready for your first vintage about a year.

                  1. re: buck mac

                    Plums plus gin plus two years is also really, really great but that's probably a topic for a different thread ....

                2. I've been making them for 4 years now. Just sweet cherries, unpitted, in a sterilized jar with a little sugar, then filled with brandy. I tighten the lids by hand and store them in a basement pantry. Just cracked open a jar yesterday that was put up in 2004. The cherries were firm and still dark, but totally infused with the booze. We eat them on ice cream paired with a dark chocolate sauce, drizzed with a little of the brandy. Also good on or in any kind of pound cake, bread pudding, custard, etc.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: clepro

                    When I was growing up, we used to go to my father's foreman's house for New Year's Eve. He was a Sicilian guy with the last name Bonano, so he took New Year's very seriously.

                    Anyways, after he and his wife cleaned up after their party on New Year's day, he went to work to make a batch of what he would call "ruttafree" or something like that. Essentially he would take a big 5 gallon earthen ware jug and fill it with pitted cherries. To the top. I don't know if he put anything else in there, or if it was just the cherries. Then, he'd dump like half a dozen bottles of grain alcohol in there, and then seal it. It would sit in his basement for 364 days until the following New Year's Eve, when he would serve it at his party. It was always empty by the end of the night.

                    Me, being well under drinking age, would get to eat a "death cherry" or two from the pot. However, that taste still lingers, and I can't help but think of it every NYE.

                    I've tried to find some history on this drink, but have no idea how to spell it or its provenance (I assume it's Sicilian, but this was Western PA - he could have borrowed it off of a Lithuanian, German, Croatian, Pole, Serbian, Greek, etc.) Anyways, if anyone has any info on this, and particularly a recipe, I'd love to hear about it.

                    1. re: lambretta76

                      sounds like "ratafia" - why not do a search on that? He probably put sugar in there too.

                      We use a recipe for brandying dried cherries that is very simple - dried cherries, sugar, brandy to cover- in a glass canning jar until the sugar is dissolved and cherries are plumped, then add additional brandy and a cinnamon stick and perhaps a couple of cloves, age for a few weeks before sampling - it can be pretty good. I used 150 proof grain alcohol last time instead of 80 proof brandy and the cherries were unbearably alcoholic with no discernible flavor. this recipe is really intended to create the liqueur, not brandied cherries, and the overproof supposedly extracts the flavor better, but we prefer the brandied cherries over cake,icecream etc to drinking it as cherry liquor, so Id rather go with the lower proof and have edible, still flavored fruit.

                  2. Though we are past the season, this treatment also works well if you or someone you know has a hyperactive plum tree. Jar them, stick them in the back of the cupboard or fridge, and by Christmas they've been there several months and both the fruit and the liquid are a treat. In that case you probably want a higher alcohol to plum ratio.