Brandied Cherries & A Cordial


Brandied cherries

Every August I wait patiently for these beautiful maroon orbs to show up at our farm stands. It’s a fruit we don’t grow here in Maine.

I got hooked on these a few years ago when an old friend from Montana sent me a jar. I’m not really a cherry pie eater, but fell in love with these brandied cherries after my first taste.

In the warmth of August the local residents of the beautiful state of Montana welcome Flathead Cherries. “Flathead” isn’t a variety of cherries, but refers to the region around Montana’s Flathead Lake, located in the western part of the state.

Many varieties of cherries are grown there, including Lapin, Sweetheart, Rainier, Van, Stella, Lambert, and Skeena. I had no idea there were so many varieties of cherries, but selfishly wish I could get them year round. For starters, cherries boast a low glycemic index than almost any other fruit… meaning they release their sugars slowly, making cherries one of the best fruits for folks with diabetes. Being a major lover of all fruits compounded by diabetes.. this was a huge plus to learn this for me… but like everything else the keyword being moderation.

August cherries

This is the forth year I’ve made these brandied cherries, so this year I bought 13 pounds of cherries and put up 14 jars! They are
delicious over vanilla ice cream and would be wonderful over a nice custard pudding or pound cake. I like to put them over French toast for a treat too. Anybody who comes up to Maine to visit me goes home with a jar of these beauties! My family fights over them. 😄

Brandied cherries over ice cream. Yum 😋

Brandied Cherriessingle batch

6# dark, sweet cherries
1/2 cup sugar, plus a 1/2 cup wildflower honey
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 cups brandy

Wash and pit cherries. Combine sugar, honey, water, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Add
cherries and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in brandy. Pack hot cherries into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch
headspace. Ladle the hot syrup over cherries, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust rings and seals. Process for 10
minutes in a boiling-water bath. Makes about 6 pints of brandied cherries.

The other thing I’ve made with the August cherries are bottles upon bottles of Ratafia… an Italian cordial, that’s simply to die for.

This delicious wine-soaked cherry liqueur hails from the Abruzzo region, where we first tasted it in a family-run trattoria in a splendid town called Sulmona. Local Montepulciano wine and wild cherries were marinated together to create the perfect after-dinner digestivo. The trattoria owner put a bottle on our table, inviting us to help ourselves, and then brought crunchy cherry-studded biscotti to dip into it. He was gracious enough to share the recipe with me after I wouldn’t stop raving over how scrumptious a cordial it was. LOL!

I have since learned that creating delicious liqueurs depends on the Biblical principle of 40 days and 40 nights – leaving the fruit and liquor to macerate that proverbial period of time draws out all the fruity goodness and makes luscious liqueurs! Here’s how it’s made. Other than sipping it after a meal… I’ve used this fabulous liqueur to make my wine jellies and jams, then during peach season (you all know how I feel about peach season 🍑🧡🧡) I just love slicing fresh peaches.. then pouring the Ratafia over the fruits. You need to try this! You’ll think you had died and gone straight to peach heaven. 😄 LOL

Ratafia di Ciliegia

1 1/2 pounds pitted cherries
1 bottle Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine
1 cup grain alcohol (or high-proof, good quality vodka)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 vanilla bean
a big glass jar or bottle that will seal well

Split the vanilla bean open and put it in the jar, along with the other ingredients.  Give it a shake and put it in a dark place for 40 days and 40 nights, shaking it gently every few days.  After the maceration period, strain it.

Combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan, bring to a gentle boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, then turn off the heat and let it cool. Add it to the liqueur, stirring well. Divide into bottles and keep in a cool, dark place.

I like the pretty gasket-topped bottles as they seal well and make a nice presentation for gift-giving. Simple, simple and so very good!

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