Cherry Heering


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-

Starting point for the Brandied Cherries

Not something I’d gravitate to, but one of the blog readers forwarded a link to another blog that runs a weekly cocktail contest. The theme for this coming week…Beer Cocktails. I’m a little conflicted about this one. Beer is where I started several years ago. The archetypal flavors in a glass of beer seem to express what the brewmaster wants you to taste – nothing more or less. The grains that were selected and their degree of roasting, the hop selection and timing of their addition conspire to make the drink. It isn’t meant to age or be messed with – the final product is what you get, just drink and enjoy.

That said, all cocktail mixing usually involves messing with the base drink to take it to another level. Even single malts aren’t immune from getting pressed into service for an occasional cocktail. We’ve done it with Champagne as well. What the heck, here goes.

I’ve been playing around a bit with rye whiskey, cherry brandy and juice, and sweet vermouth to try and come up with a Halloween cocktail. No final combination yet, but some of the ideas from that experiment were adapted to mixing with beer. Here’s what I came up with –

The Beer Heering

The ingredients shot

The ingredients shot

  • 12 oz Pale Ale
  • 1-1/2 oz Cherry Heering
  • 3/4 oz Orange curacao
  • lemon wedge

Add liqueurs to beer, squeeze lemon wedge into the glass and add as a garnish (or not). Stir gently and serve.

The amount of the liqueurs can vary to your taste, cut back the orange before you cut back on the cherry. The lemon helps cut down on the sweetness from the liqueurs. The beer is sufficiently bitter that you can skip adding another bittering agent. Remember that some pale ales are more hoppy (read: bitter) than others and the selection will affect the drink. I used Whole Foods house Pale Ale which is only mildly bitter.

Back to the classics! I turned up some blood oranges while Cruising through Greenlife Grocery a couple of days ago. These hold a special spot in my heart. During a short stint in the Navy, they were the first fresh food we had after an extended time at sea. We were eating them (and stuffing them in our pockets) while we passed crates from the supply ship to storage areas below the deck. That was off the coast of Sicily – home of the best blood oranges.

Because of that memory, the Blood and Sand cocktail recipe stuck with me. I read about in Eric Felten’s column last year. It’s a drink from the cocktail golden age that on first glance seems like an odd combination. I had made some a while back with regular orange juice (fresh squeezed) and thought they were a little flabby. Blood orange juice has a little more acidity and makes the drink-

Blood and Sand from Eric Felten

  • 1-1/2 oz Scotch
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 3/4 oz Cherry Heering
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth

Shake and strain.

Lovely. You get the base liquor flavor up front, the fruit flavors in the middle and a lingering finish of vermouth.

I put a southern twist on it for my second round using Borboun in place of the Scotch. Not quite as good. Next test will be with some rye – cheers