Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to Make Cherry Cordial (Part 1)

The bird netting we put up on our cherry tree last week really shouldn't have done much good, because when we hung it, we could only reach the very lowest branches, leaving the majority of the tree exposed. But apparently the very presence of bird netting so offended the local crows and cardinals, that they promptly abandoned our tree and have left it untouched, despite the thousands of ripe cherries it now boasts.

There is something about a loaded fruit tree---especially if it's one that you didn't have to plant, prune, water, or spray with pesticide---that makes you feel rich, gifted with the treasure of free food in abundance, there for the taking. There's something profoundly joyful about accepting Nature's bounty, as if the earth herself has chosen that moment to try to make you feel welcome on the planet.

With such an abundance of cherries this year, it took me almost no time at all to pick enough to make a couple of jars of cordial. I don't know what variety these cherries are, but they are clearly the smaller, tarter pie cherries, not the big sweet eating cherries.

I've only made cherry cordial twice before. Once with sweet cherries, which turned out thin and insipid, and once with tiny wild black cherries, which had so much pectin in them that the cordial turned into a sort of alcoholic jelly in the bottles!

Let's hope this time we find a happy medium!

After I picked a big bowlful of cherries, I pitted them all by poking them with a kitchen skewer. Then I filled two clean mason jars about 1/2 full (approximately 2 cups of cherries in each one), and mashed the cherries thoroughly to release as much of the juice and flavor as possible. Then I dropped a 3" piece of stick cinnamon into each jar (breaking each one into several pieces for better flavor distribution), and filled the jars to the brim with brandy.

For cordial making, we use Christian Brothers Frost White Brandy, because it is colorless. For best presentation, we like our cordials to get all of their color from the natural ingredients inside, not from the alcohol base.

Once the jars were filled and sealed, I shook each one briefly to disperse the brandy all through the fruit. The brandy is what preserves the fruit from spoiling as it steeps, so you want to make sure it's well mixed.

Now I just put the jars away for a few weeks in a cool, dark place. I'll shake them once a day for a few days to keep the brandy well-dispersed.

Then, near the end of June, I'll do the next step. So stay tuned for Part 2!


Anonymous said...

Do you think this method would work with raspberries or cranberries as well? Mmmm, berries. :D

Nancy Chase said...

Yes, it definitely works with raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, apricots, just about any kind of fruit, as well as some herbs, spices, and nuts!

Someday I'm going to publish a book of my cordial recipes. I've developed dozens of different flavors.

Cordial making is so easy, and once you get started, it's so much fun to experiment with making up new flavors.

Cheap Like Me said...

Mmm, sounds so good. I think we are only getting about 8 cherries this year, but maybe next year??

Ness said...

Those look yummy!! How cool! And of course if you need any help drinking them, well, you know who to call. LOL

Nancy Chase said...

Well, if you're coming to the 4th of July gathering, they should be ready by then!

Hayden said...

hummm, it's the end of June... maybe you're adding sugar? I just got a whole box of apricots, maybe I should join in!

Nancy Chase said...

Apricots make a WONDERFUL cordial! My favorite cordial recipe of all is made from:

3 cups apricots (pitted and cut in chunks)
1/2 cup raisins
2" cinnamon stick (broken into pieces)
3 1/2 cups brandy

After you steep this mix and filter it as usual, you add 1 cup sugar syrup (or to taste).