Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Spirited Cherries

This is an old Italian recipe which used to involve long hours of macerating into the sun, pure alcohol and a lot of hassle. The result, though, is magic and this recipe has a slightly more modern twist as well as allowing for meteorological conditions that can be less than ideal.

1 kg of red cherries
2l of good russian vodka
6 cups of icing sugar
2 cups of cranberry juice or pomegranate juice
juice of 2 lemons, divided into 4 equal amounts

Start with juicy, ripe cherries. There is no point in doing this if they are some of those revolting light-pink things you are supposed to turn into real cherries at home so don’t even bother.
Wash them thoroughly and dry them, trying to keep as many stems on as possible.
Lay a sheet of parchment paper on your baking tray, and lay the dried cherries on it so they don’t touch each other. Cover them with 1 cup iof sugar and turn them around, so you have cherries coated in sugar, still not touching each other.
Put in the pre heated oven at 160°C for 5 minutes, just the time necessary of all the sugar to seep through inside the cherries. You do not want them to cook.
Transfer the fruit into four sterilised jars and add 3/4 cup of sugar into each, together with the cranberry juice and the lemon juice. Fill up the rest of the jar with vodka and shake vigorously until all the sugar is dissolved.
Leave for at least a month before consuming, it makes a beautiful kitchen decoration as well as an absolutely delicious boozy treat. If you can, leave them in the sun as much as possible if you are absolutely sure the sun will be shining and bright for at least a month then you can skip the oven step and just do this with raw cherries. It is more authentic and probably better.

These are delicious on ice cream or any other type of dessert and, just like the rum raisins, they flambé really easily. They are aso perfect for decorating cocktails.
Speaking of cocktails, the best thing about this recipe is that you can use the vodka, too. It will have become a delicious summer fruit vodka, which you can pair with grenadine and a sliced pineapple to make the most delicious summer cocktail I have ever had.

Or, if you don’t like it or don’t drink vodka or don’t drink enough vodka to keep up with your cherry-eating you can give it away as a present. You just need to find some pretty glass bottles (I really like the ones a certain brand of cider vinegar comes in). Strip them of their label and put them through at least two washing machine cycles (or a couple of 4 hour rinses in soapy water) to get rid of the taste of whatever they contained before and then pour the vodka in. You can add a couple of the cherries as well for decoration, trying to pick the ones with still a stem. Close tightly, add a ribbon and the trick is done. 

Of course, no one is stopping you from doing this with other fruit as well. I had a great aunt who used to do this with chopped up white peaches and raspberries, which was absolutely divine.

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