Walking the dogs the other day when we stumbled onto one of the greatest neighborhood finds to date. Several of the wild cherry trees along our street are covered with cherries this year. Last year I only identified one tree as a cherry. It had fruit, but the limbs were so high, my eight foot tent pole couldn’t reach the lowest branch. We had a lot of rain last year and a pretty wet, and for us, a colder winter. The plants around here must like that. We seem to be having a greener spring, with more pollen, more insects and it looks like, more cherries.
The trees (Prunus serotina) put out a good show of flowers in early April. That helped me find two that have limbs that I think I can reach. They are covered with fruit now, bit still a little green. We turned up two other younger trees while walking and one of these has ripe fruit ready for picking.
Picking is a little awkward – I can only reach the lowest branch. One hand holds the branch while the other picks. I do this while clenching a small plastic grocery bag in my teeth to hold the cherries. Pretty awkward when I take the dogs to help provide cover – their leashes get held in the limb holding hand. Completely worth it though. The fruit is mostly pit, but the flavor of what’s left is great. The fruit doesn’t all ripen at once. Three trips back (last one without the dogs) has given me enough for two small projects.
Cherry Bounce 2010
Last year I did this with store bought fresh cherries. This year the neighborhood fruit will do the trick.
My standard infusion technique now is to just cover the fruit with the liquor. The picture was taken after the first addition of fruit this past weekend. The second two visits gave enough fruit to get my preferred level of fruit to liquid.
One other side project – making some brandied cherries to use as drink garnishes. There are several recipes for this out there on the net. Here’s a representative one. They all involve cooking the fruit a short time in simple syrup, then combining with brandy and steeping for several weeks, plus or minus some spices. I took a short cut.
I mostly filled a Mason jar with sound cherries, covered that with water, then drained that off to measure the volume of liquid needed (3 oz). Next I combined 2 oz Cognac and 1 oz Cherry Heering. The Cherry Heering is sweetened. Next, I stirred in 2 tbsp of sugar and added 1/8 of a teaspoonful if lemon juice. I skipped adding any water and heating the mix. I wanted more alcohol to work as a preservative. The brandy mixture was then poured back onto the cherries in the jar. That will get set away in the dark for several weeks. The base recipe can be adapted to any liquor you choose, just add one tablespoonful of sugar for each ounce of unsweetened liquor.
All of this is fairly easy (I didn’t bother to wash or pit the fruit). I’ll do some more as the other trees ripen.
I noticed that the first cherries I added to the Rye were starting to look very pale (and the rye was getting a red tinge). I thought the Cherry Heering might help prevent a little loss of color in the jarred cherries. We’ll see. Another thought is to use 1/3 port wine and 2/3 cognac. Updates will follow-