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Cherries – two more recipes to sweeten the Winter

DSCN0388It may be September but my canning hasn’t slowed down yet.  I’m having such fun making lots of small batches to provide inspiration in the less fruitful winter.

This year has been the year of Black Cherries for me.  I’ve dried several batches of black cherries.  I wish I could tell you that these will be found in my winter pantry, but snacking seems to be taking a big bite (pardon the pun!) out of them.  But the next two recipes will be gracing my shelves for many months.

DSCN0425I’ve had fun with Rum Soaked Black Cherries. And while I haven’t tried the results yet (they are still mellowing), I plan to use them with a pound cake — and maybe a hit of whipped creme?  I’m trying this as a prelude to going for “Rumtopf” – a traditional German-made seasonal fruit combo preserved in rum that goes back centuries in Europe.  Layers are made by adding the newest seasonal fruit to the crock or jar along with more rum as the various fruits become available out in the orchard.  More on that one when I try it.

 

DSCN0591 (2)I’m still knew to the “shrub” frenzy that seems to be sweeping canners and bartenders and soft drink afficinados.  If you haven’t heard of shrubs, first let me tell you they are as old as colonial days here in the States – as a way of preserving fruits.  Shrubs are simply fruits preserved in vinegar, often with sugar added.

The base flavor after marinating for the prescribed time is quite intense and lends itself to mixing with sodas or tonics, as well as boozy combos such as gin, rum, bourbon and other choices.  The choice of various vinegars, sugars, liquors, and herbs or spices means endless arrays of tangy, creative drinks. When I came across a recipe for Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub, I knew that was one I had to try.  And it turned out to be delicious. The balsamic with the dark cherries is as rich and complex as it sounds.

DSCN0447You may still find some black cherries at your markets.  If not, both of these recipes would work well, I think, with frozen ones.  Just make sure you are getting whole cherries, especially for the Rum Soaked Black Cherry recipe.  And no water-bath processing needed – the alcohol in the first and the vinegar in the second is sufficient to preserve the products for a long time.  Just make sure to use sterilized glass jars with tight-fitting lids.

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Rum Soaked Black Cherries

Use with ice cream, pound or angel-food cake. Delicious paired with coffee.

Makes approximately 2 Half-Pint Jars

1 lb. Black Cherries, washed  (pitting optional)
3/4 cup Sugar (I use Organic Raw Sugar)
1 3/4 cups Rum

 

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Sterilize two wide-mouthed jars.  Pack the cherries carefully without crushing into the jars.  Add the sugar to each jar, dividing the amount between the two. Do the same with the rum.

DSCN0417Cap and turn the jars over and over in order to absorb the sugar and release trapped air. Store for two months or more in cool, dark place before opening.  I think this recipe would work equally well with apricots and other small firm fruits.

 

DSCN0410Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub

(Adapted from a recipe at:

http://stirrednotshakenblog.wordpress.com)

1 lb. Black Cherries, washed and pitted
1 lb. Organic Sugar (I used Organic Raw Sugar; Turbinado would work well too)
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Cinnamon Sticks
8-12 black peppercorns, cracked

DSCN0428Place the sugar and cherries in a 1 quart sterilized wide-mouthed glass jar that has a tight fitting lid (such as a Mason jar).  Muddle the cherries (I used an immersion blender that seemed to work quite well).  Make sure all the cherries are crushed, juice is released, and then stir to mix sugar into the juice.

Seal the jar and let sit in a cool place to macerate for 24-48 hours.  If the cherries start to ferment, add 1/2 of the Balsamic Vinegar to stop the fermentation.

DSCN0457After maceration is complete, add the rest of the vinegars, cinnamon sticks and black peppercorns.  Store in cool, dark place for 7-10 days.  Give the jar a vigorous shake each day to mix up sugar and rest of the ingredients.

At this point, you can choose to strain the shrub.  Pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, breaking up cherries and removing most of the liquid with the back of a spoon.  Then pour the strained liquid back into the bottle.  Or you may choose to leave all the ingredients in the bottle and strain out small amounts into glasses as you use the liquid.  Note:  either way, you will notice some sediment in the bottom of the jar as it settles out.  This is normal and not of concern.  You may strain through cheesecloth if you prefer to remove it;  it didn’t bother me at all.

DSCN0591 (2)How to use?  My first try resulted in a wonderfully tangy, slightly sweet mixture that is perfect for the hot weather we are continuing to have. I used about 1 ounce of the shrub per glass, then filled it with tonic water and ice.  If you find it a bit too tangy, you can add about 1 tablespoon maple syrup (my choice) or other sweetener of your choice.   In the winter, I’ll add gin or vodka to it to give it some “heat”.  I think bourbon would work equally well with the deep dark flavors of this drink.  Store the shrub in a cool dark place.  Refrigeration is fine too.  It will last months (if you have it that long!).

Feel free to experiment – they are so many possibilities!  And enjoy!

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Next Canning Workshops September 14 at Piedmont Park and September 27 at Serenbe. And in Nashville September 20 and 21
Learn more here