Category Archives: preserving

No Waste Strawberry Cordial

Has it really been a month? In my defense, I moved house and home (and jars) since we last spoke. Now I am in the unpacking stage, which is really more difficult and time-consuming than packing: you have to force yourself to get it done, otherwise it can languish for-ev-er. I say this because I’ve lived here for almost a month and I still see boxes of jars in corners. Somehow, my roommate hasn’t asked me to leave yet.

In the month span, Connecticut strawberries have come in like a deluge. The heavy rain and generally weird weather made them come in almost all at once. Luckily, a few select orchards have my cell number and can put out the call to round up seconds at a moment’s notice. It’s a win-win – they still get paid for their hard work, and their hard work doesn’t spoil – and I am all too happy to take it off of their hands. So if you are thinking about any sort of jam making – hook up with your local farm and orchard. You’ll be glad you did.

I answered one such call two weeks ago, and lo and behold came home with 23 pounds of strawberry seconds that had to be hulled that night or wouldn’t make it 24 hours. The best kind, really, and the only kind I get these days. So I hulled away on the couch (because the dining room table is, ahem, still covered in flats of jars) and then all 23 lbs went in the fridge to macerate. And no, my roommate still did not ask me to leave when I quickly filled 2/3 of the fridge with strawberries, rhubarb and various projects. Miraculous. 

No Waste Strawberry Cordial⎥Snowflake Kitchen

The true miracle, though is what came out of the waste. I am not a meticulous strawberry huller – especially not when faced with 23 pounds of overripe fruit. Just a paring knife and some repetitive motion, and I will get there. But I’ve taken to throwing the hulls into a jar for later use. Many of the hulls have quite a bit of red on them – like I said, not a meticulous huller – which made for a beautiful infusion. Most of the time I will infuse, then add simple syrup (for a limon- or whatever-cello like cordial) but this time straight strawberries and vodka were perfect. Simple, exceedingly sweet (thanks to the beautifully grown overripe berries from Easy Pickins Orchard, I’m sure) and sips perfectly all by itself. Though occasionally a few bubbles can’t hurt. If you still have strawbs in your neck of the woods – make this! I do always love making something out of nothing, but this idea turned out particularly great. You won’t regret it for a second.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial
Strawberry Hulls
1 clean jar with a lid
Vodka to cover

You can rinse your berries before hulling, but dont feel like you need to be meticulous here, as you will catch everything at bottling. Pack the hulls to within 1 inch of the top of the jar, before moving onto a second (or third! or fourth!) jar. Pack them medium tight – leave enough room for the vodka to do its thing. Top with vodka and let sit for anywhere from 3 days to 1 week. Swirl each day to circulate the infusion, and start tasting after 3 days. Mine was ready in 4.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial⎥Snowflake Kitchen

To bottle, strain through a coffee filter and store at room temperature. If it isn’t sweet enough for you, you of course can add a little simple syrup or soda. I particularly like it with an oaky bourbon and splash of ginger ale.

Double Duty: Ramps (Compound Butter & Pickles)

Three steps forward and one step back.

I pack my life into a tiny room but have to leave it for three weeks until I can be myself in my own space again. My parents finally get a closing date on their house but then their lease falls through. I finally make some progress on a difficult project at work only to have to rearrange all the deadlines to put out another fire. The new apartment accepts dogs but has a $300 non-refundable pet fee.

Saturday I woke up to 43 degrees and driving rain, but left my warm waterproof sneakers packed 90 minutes away. Because who expects fall-like Juneau, Alaska weather at the start of Memorial Day weekend in Connecticut? Argh.

This is the part where I usually say that despite the lack of posts, I’ve been cooking great things. Well, folks – that isn’t true this time. The last decent thing I made was made on the fly on my last day at my old house. I’ve told you about that place right? The place where in the spring I can grab ramps outside my door IN MY PAJAMAS if I want – so long as I wear some decent XtraTufs? Man, am I gonna miss that place.

I have been so careful with the ramp patch, too. Harvesting only the greens most of the time, with enough bulbs for one small jar of pickles. But this year? After being so careful in my tiny personal patch for the last two years, I found a whole other carpet. Not sure how I missed it before – blindness in the heat of ramp euphoria, perhaps. And though I still took only one jar’s worth for pickles, I made sure to get the fattest ramps there were.  Because I hope to come back next year, but who knows? Because I wanted to. Or just because.

Of course, I made the decision to make pickles after I had packed away all of my jars. But ever-fleeting ramps are one thing thats always worth digging out a jar.

So three steps forward and one step back. This is my life lately. At least I have by ramp pickles in my fridge and compound butter in my freezer, waiting for after June 1st in my new apartment.

Ramp Pickles by Snowflake Kitchen

Preserved Lemon & Ramp Compound Butter

One stick unsalted butter, softened
Ramp greens (approximately 5 ramps – 10 leaves), cleaned well, dried and finely chopped
One preserved lemon, flesh removed and rind finely chopped
Black pepper to taste

In a perfect world, leave your butter on the counter, go forage your ramps, prep everything and when you come back, it should be soft enough. If you are like me and keep your butter in the freezer, it might take a bit longer, and you might get a bit impatient – so prep ahead of time. Small firm, but not frozen, chunks can be helped along in a food processor. Which – if you’re going to already get dirty, you might as well mix the whole batch in there. Of course you can just as well make quick use of a bowl, mixing utensil and/or your hands.

Like my favorite recipes, this one involves mixing everything together, tasting, and when satisfied, forming into a log/packing into your vessel of choice and freezing until later. The tasting is key here, as is using unsalted butter. The preserved lemons bring plenty of salt to the table for my taste. My 2013 batch of preserved lemons has a nice kick of aleppo pepper, which is really great here, but please use what you have. No preserved lemons? Make them next year, and add salt and chopped lemon rind (but take care to minimize the bitter pith).

Use everywhere from searing scallops to melting over the top of a great steak to serving with crusty bread.

Ramp Fridge Pickles
15-20 ramp bulbs, cleaned, de-rooted
One wide mouth pint mason jar
1/4 cup of white vinegar
Water to cover
One teaspoon salt
One bay leaf
One tablespoon mixed peppercorns
Spring of thyme or rosemary

The best thing about fridge pickles is they take exactly no time to come together. Add your veg in a jar, add your vinegar, salt and spices and top with water. Place in the frige and swirl gently a couple of times over the course of a week, and you have a great accompaniment to cheese, in salad, or finely chopped in place of your usual cukes. They are great sliced thin on top of tacos in place of pickled onions.

Double Duty: Grapefruit (Candied Peel + Syrup)

I think it happens unconsciously most of the time, but in general I like my food to reflect my spirit. When my heart is in the food that I make – I like to think that you can almost see the adjectives: Frugal. Simple with an unexpected twist. Local. Solid flavor. Tasty. At the same time, if you lined up recent eating: Passive-Aggressive. Broke. Unhealthy. Unplanned. Kind of depressing. Something is definitely up here. Like life re-evaluating. I don’t want to get into it too much, but on a food level, it speaks volumes.

It’s almost like I had unconsciously planned for this. I had multiple soups in the freezer, some my own and some from our local foodswap, ready to go for when I woke up and lunch was the furthest thing from my mind. I had jam and pickles and cheese, and could throw a few things in my bag and not throw off my whole day or go out and spend more money I didn’t have. That’s really the heart of putting things in jars, isn’t it? Preparation for the future. I mean, the ability to have a gift at any given moment is nice, but I like to think not the primary reason. Maybe I’m naive.

I planned ahead for when I couldn’t possibly have an appetite, but I also planned ahead with a few great distractions. Well – that’s not entirely true – I always have one or two major kitchen projects in the works. Though things didn’t work out for an order of beautiful Texas Ruby Reds, I did score some organic grapefruit at my coop. Salted grapefruit lime jam, a riff on Kaela’s Salted Cranberry Grapefruit Jam, while tasty came out far too cooked for my liking. There were some lovely grapefruit bitters and straight up segments, but far too much leftover rind. I figured if this idea didn’t work out, at least it would only cost me some sugar and time, so why not? I am so glad I did. And not just for the distraction.

grapefruit

Photo credit: Laura Stone Photography

Candied Grapefruit Peel
Adapted from Candied Clementine Peel on Epicurious
5 organic grapefruits, preferably red
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
Vegetable oil to grease drying rack
1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar

First and foremost – yes, you do need to spring for organic fruit here, as with any application that uses the rind of fruit. Take care to remove your peel – either by peeling the fruit or juicing. You need to accomplish two things: small, finger-sized pieces of peel that are completely without fruit and also have minimal pith. Do not make the peels too small here, you can always break into smaller pieces later. Some pith is, of course, fine – and I like that it makes the grapefruit peel not 100% sweet. That said – do take some of it off, and if you can take care to make it smooth it will help when the candied peels are air drying.

Take your trimmed peels and cover with water in a saucepan. I like to use one that is about 4″ deep – enough for the peels to float plenty but not a huge pot, either. Add a half teaspoon of the salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for approximately 10 minutes, but be careful that it doesn’t boil over. Drain the peels, but take care – they are somewhat delicate. Repeat the process twice more, starting with fresh salted water each time.

At this point, add the peels, granulated sugar and water into a clean pot. You are making a thin simple syrup that will gradually reduce into a thicker one while infusing the peel with sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a low boil. This step may take anywhere from 20 minutes to more – depending on your environment. You know the peels are done when they are translucent and the syrup is thick.

While the syrup is reducing, set up your final station with a drying rack and bowl of vanilla sugar. It helps greatly to lightly both oil the rack (canola oil is great) and place parchment paper underneath to catch excess syrup. Once finished, transfer the peels to the drying rack. They really do need half an hour to dry – do not shortcut this step. You may cut them into smaller pieces once they have cooled, if needed. Toss with vanilla sugar and continue to dry on the rack overnight. You may have to turn them several times and/or toss again in the sugar. Once sufficiently dry (it may take longer than you expect), store in a bowl or jar. If you put the peel in a jar and it re-liquifies, it needs more drying time.

Salted Grapefruit Margarita and Candied Grapefruit Peel by Snowflake Kitchen

Grapefruit Syrup

A lovely byproduct of the above recipe. Simply strain the leftover syrup, bottle, and use at will. Because it results from sugar, water, zest and pith, this syrup has a decent bitter note. Added to seltzer it makes a great grapefruit soda – one that isn’t too sweet like some off-the-shelf grapefruit beverages. Added to either gin or tequila, it also is a fabulous base for a paloma or margarita. I’m sure you could can it, but I prefer to use this syrup fresh.

Aleppo Pepper Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons have a few different aliases: you may know them as lemon pickle or lemon confit (though I tend to think of lemon confit as something else entirely). Whatever you call them, making at least one jar of these has become a favorite yearly tradition of mine, using some of Karen’s wonderful meyers. I love the yearly splurge so – no other time of the year is it more appreciated and so needed. February is tough – the cold around here really starts to get old, record-breaking snowfall wears you out and your bones themselves begin to crave spring. Warm sunny says seem so long ago they become the stuff of legend.

Preserved Lemons by Snowflake Kitchen

Luckily, meyer lemons cure all ills. And preserving them in salt captures their brightness for year-round use. I make a different batch each year. The first year I made them, I used equal parts pimentón and cayenne. They were nothing if not LOUD. The flavor mellowed towards the end of the jar, but in 2012, I veered in a different direction and used curry spices – cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander and cumin seeds. A nice change, but I find myself longing for some heat. Some – in no way shape or form am I anywhere close to becoming a chile head, but I do find myself appreciating some lower-end Scoville units in my preserved lemons.

This year, I went with aleppo pepper. It’s recent arrival bought from a new year spice binge from Whole Spice (PS: they might be having a 30% off sale right now – use the code “spice.” I’m sorry for your wallet/You’re welcome.) I find myself reaching for it when I want to add some subtle heat to savory dishes. Nothing could ever replace the pimentón I remain practically wedded to, but aleppo chiles bring something else the to table. The more I find myself drawn to it, the more I find my thoughts with the city that shares its name. As this batch lasts through the year, I hope by the time I finish it some peace has come to Syria.

Aleppo Preserved Lemons by Snowflake Kitchen

Aleppo Pepper Preserved Lemons
5-6 meyer lemons, ends removed and quartered
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons crushed aleppo pepper
2 bay leaves
Coarse salt to cover, approximately 1 1/2 cups

Remove both ends of your lemons and quarter them, reserving any juice. Take a wide mouth quart jar and cover the bottom with salt. Mix the remainder of salt with the aleppo and black pepper. Tilt the jar at an angle, careful not to spill any salt, an add quartered lemon slices in one even layer. Tuck your bay leaves on each side, between the lemons and the edge of the jar. Add enough peppered salt to cover, and then add another layer of lemons. Repeat until you are almost out of room in the jar. Top with the remaining salt and reserved lemon juice. Shake on your counter about once a day for a week or so, and then place in a darker spot in your pantry.

To use, strip off the lemon flesh and discard. Chop the peel and add to soup, tagines or even preserves.

Preserver’s Tikka Masala

Like most people, J and I are trying to make informed choices to start off 2013. Move more. (Hooray desk jobs!) Spend deliberately. (Age old needs vs. wants, but also save and prioritize now that we both have stable jobs – for the moment, anyway. Ah, adulthood.) Eat smartly. (More fruit & veg, cook new things, eat out of our pantry). So – you know – the goals of probably 90% of us this time of year.

I have always loved Indian food. My hometown had just one Indian restaurant – nestled on the edge of town sharing space with a motel. It had at least three names that I can remember (and I assume just as many owners) – but it always had a Sunday fixed price buffet. It became a regular tradition to head out there after church (or – true confession - during ”church!”) where we would nothing short of gorge ourselves on biriyani, samosas, pakora, and anything else that made it out to the buffet table. And I was hooked. To this day – if the budget allows, I will always go for Indian when given the choice.

And that’s a big if. While I sort of live in the boonies, I do have more than one takeout choice for my comforting curries and naan. But that said – takeout or eat in, its always at minimum $30 for two people. Not the least expensive option around. So in the spirit of the new year, when the latest craving hit, I started researching recipes. I found one that not only was fairly healthy, but would also please my picky eater better half. And – I had almost all of the ingredients already on hand.

Preserver's Tikka Masala

You’ve got the spices, chicken, herbs and pantry essentials ready to go in addition to that multipurpose tomato puree you put up in September, right? Right. If you have a reasonably well-stocked pantry – you should only have to go out for some cream. Yes, CREAM. Given there is an overwhelming half a cup in a recipe that served two of us for dinner in addition to two leftover lunches, I think it can still be considered a healthy recipe.

Pull your chicken out of the chest freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight. You can marinate the chicken in spices if you wish, but I noticed no flavor difference when I made this all at once after work. Dredge the chicken in flour and then sear in a skillet – in batches if necessary. At the same time, melt your cilantro cubes in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. What? You have no cilantro cubes in oil? Seriously – I saw that post EVERYWHERE this summer. If you still have fresh herbs on your windowsill this time of year – of course use those, but add them at the very end. I add the frozen cilantro in oil at the beginning of this recipe to make use of the oil – otherwise adding it at the end would be too much. No cilantro at all? No sense in buying one of those terrible plastic packets at the store – just add extra coriander or omit – up to you.

Once the oil has melted, add your ginger, garlic, and onion. Once they have browned a bit, add all of the spices. The goal is to toast and brown the mix to give it flavor. While you can toast your spices and then add them, I find it easier to take an extra few minutes to brown them in the same pot. Add chicken once the spices are fragrant. If it looks too oily, add another tablespoon of flour and cook for another minute. Empty in a pint of roasted tomato puree and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Just before you are ready to eat, stir in the cream and simmer for another few minutes.

DSC_0088

Serve with rice, homemade naan & aloo gobi, and enjoy a quick departure from your normal routine. Here’s to 2013.

Sandy (Hook)

After the last three months, its pretty safe to say the word Sandy will forever make me cringe. No one knows what to say after a day like Friday. I am still trying to get my head around it, and I think I never will, really.

I grew up 20 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary, and my parents still live there. Newtown is very much like the communities that surround it – small town, close-knit, everyone knows everyone. My mom works in my hometown’s insurance agency, and whenever we talk on the phone she always fills me in on the local gossip. Did you hear so-and-so is getting married? I talked to [lawyer you used to work for] the other day – he asked about you. Town came to a standstill today when someone backed over the stone wall in front of the post office. It’s New England though – so even though everyone sort of knows everyone else’s business, we all sort of keep to ourselves. It seems, though, that these days, as we grieve as a community, we find out that we really do share the important things.

The national news shouldn’t be reporting from Danbury Hospital, but they are. Danbury effing Hospital – where only last year my dad was treated for a heart attack and almost 21 years ago where my brother was born. And now the freaking Westboro Baptist Church – yes, those insatiable asshats – are taking it upon themselves to roll into town parading their ignorance and hate speech. It seems that all I can manage is to clutch a mug of something warm and stare out the window shaking my head.

You see: this kind of thing shouldn’t happen at all, but it just. doesn’t. happen. here.

The weather today reflects my mood: cold, cloudy, intermittent wintry mix. I’m having trouble smiling. I’m having trouble thinking of anything else. Going through the motions doesn’t begin to describe.

I’m not a parent, and I grieve. I’m not a teacher, and I grieve. I suppose I grieve as a Connecticut native. And I grieve with the world for my state and the region where I grew up.

And then it was November.

If you read other seasonal preserving blogs, you know posting dies down in shoulder season. Because there are tomatoes and corn, raspberries and ever-bearing strawberries, summer and winter squash, all before the pommes roll in – and because we are all a little insane, we try to do it ALL. There has been more than one Sunday where I brought home two CSA bags, 50 lbs of tomatoes, 25 lbs of leftover farmers’ market apples, and – what the hell – my favorite orchard had a deal on a flat of fall raspberries.

When you end your Sundays absolutely wiped out, work Monday morning is trying. Hell, when you are in a job that drives you crazy – every Monday morning is trying. And then Monday rolls into Tuesday, which seems the same as Wednesday… and before you know it its Saturday and you have another metric ton of veg, CSA, and bulk pickup headed your way. Every. single. day. seemed like nothing but triage.

I am one of those people who externalizes internal disorder. My kitchen will be full of unfinished projects and dirty dishes, I will have piles upon piles of dirty laundry next to a floordrobe, and I will come home from work every day, pour myself a drink, and pretend it doesn’t exist. But, as life sorts itself out, so too does my environment. I have a different job now – one that adds to my life instead of takes away from it. My closet is organized and everything in it has a purpose. And most importantly – my kitchen is CLEAN and EFFICIENT.

I’ll be the first to admit it – our fall storms last year left scars. I still spent too much time in the very spot I type in now, waiting for the gunshot crack of a tree snapping in the storm – waiting to see if our house was in its path. And I don’t need to talk about life without power or my past losses, because the Northeast experienced them all over again a year to the day. We were very, very lucky this time, but so many had (and still have weeks later) opposite fortunes.

There have been wonderful things cooking around here since July. Grilled peach bourbon butter, plums in wine and honey, hucklebourbon jam, sweet pepper and spicy squash relish, roasted salsa verde, pear cranberry butter with maple and ginger, really excellent fermented apple cider vinegar… and more recently: vanilla quince butter, membrillo and kimchi. Plans for a big batch of seckel pears in spiced syrup this week. It’s a shame – typing up posts on some of them would be so cruel as the snow melts from our first nor’easter.

I, for one, am thankful for the break. Writing is like cooking – you can always tell when your heart just isn’t in it. It’s not something you can fake. But as the seasons reset, life shakes itself out, and things slow down for a few months, you will likely see me around these parts more often. And as cheesy as it sounds – I am so very glad you are still here.

Pickled Blues

I was invited to the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market this past Sunday. The weekend’s theme was Blueberries and Bluegrass. After a decent strawberry yield (does anyone else remember last year’s strawberries going on forever?), a quick summer raspberry season and a blink-and-you-miss it cherry season, Connecticut was due for some beautiful and plentiful fruit.

At the beginning of the growing season, I overdose on strawberries. I mean WAY too much. Like six varieties of strawberry jams and two more preserves too much. That said – after I crack open my last jar of strawb something in the bleak midwinter, the anticipation of REAL local taste-like-nothing-else strawberries in June makes them that much sweeter. You can absolutely make blueberry jam, with these very same spices (if, unlike me, you need another jam), but at this point I am in the mood for something different.

I made this preserve for the first time last summer, and in a very double duty kind of way ended up with whole berries and almost another jar of blueberry vinegar. Perfect for vinaigrette, a blueberry soda, or one heckuva blueberry martini.

Hot Pack Pickled Blueberries
Adapted from Hungry Tigress’ Whole Pickled Blueberries
2-3 quarts of blueberries
2 cups 5% apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fenugreek

Tigress does this recipe over two days. While I love the idea, I never have that kind of time or fridge space this time of year. So I heat blueberries, spices and vinegar until just simmering, and then immediately turn off the heat. While you can put the spices in any way you like, I like to put them in a cloth bag or tea ball for easy removal. You can leave them in, but spices have a way of intensifying (for better or worse) in the jar. While the spices infuse in the vinegar (and the vinegar infuses in the blueberries for that matter), heat up your canner. (New to canning? The National Center for Home Preservation is a great resource for boiling waterbath instructions.) When the jars are thoroughly boiled, add the sugar, bring the blues back to a simmer. Simmer for just a minute or two to keep the fruit intact. With a slotted spoon, put the fruit in your jar of choice (I like wide mouth half pints) and top with hot vinegar syrup, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process for 15 minutes.

Like most pickles, this needs a few weeks to really come into its own. While you can store this pickle with a good seal for up to a year in a cool dark space, I would wait at least two weeks before cracking open your first jar.

Options
This recipe can easily be adapted to stone fruit – plums, peaches, or cherries would be lovely. I dont think other delicate berries would stand up to the process.

You could turn this into a fridge pickle by combining the ingredients and then stopping before the waterbath step. Ladle into a jar of choice, let cool, and refrigerate.

Use vinegar of your choice, but if you intend on canning the recipe, make sure the bottle says 5% acidity. If you want it to be a fridge pickle only, any vinegar is your pleasure.

I love fenugreek in my sweet pickles. Cloves, allspice or bay would also be good additions here.

Windham Gardens CSA Weeks Four and Five

In the Bags: Pickling Cukes, Basil, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Garlic, Kale, Sweet Corn

This is pickle season. I mean, it can be pickle season anytime, in that you can pickle veggies of any season, but what I mean pickling cukes are in season now. My pickling cukes this year were a combination of fail: direct seeded outside extremely late, half eaten by something before they really took off, and of course slugs took the remainder. Luckily, Erin grows some awesome picklers. There will be bread and butters, dill relish, sweet relish, garlic dills… all given as holiday gifts in a few months.

I am clearly not a card-carrying pickle hater. That said, I pretty much don’t eat any of the cucumbers I put up. Processed pickles are good – far beyond any storebought ones – but I think the best pickle is a crispy, cold one. I am firmly in the camp that believes cucumbers are best when they are fresh and not when they are cooked. Hence, I am a fridge pickle devotee.

My fridge pickle recipe is simple: 1) Fill jar with spices, about 1 teaspoon each of your choice of fenugreek, coriander, mustard, dill, garlic, red chile flake, etc. 2) Fill jar with cucumbers, sliced in coins or spears 3) Fill 1/3 with vinegar. Since these are fridge pickles, you can stray from the 5% white vinegar mandate. 4) Fill 2/3 with water. 5) Cover, refrigerate for at least a week before tasting.

Basil: Pesto & Infused Vinegar

A very double duty kind of use. The basil leaves go into the food processor with toasted nuts (usually cashews), the last of the garlic scapes, salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to blend everything together. I freeze it in ice cube trays or small portions. When I defrost it, then I add more oil and parmesan before serving.

But you don’t get just basil leaves in your CSA. You also get stems, and sometimes flowers. These go into a quart jar of vinegar for later use in salads, vinaigrettes and marinades. What’s your favorite early summer CSA use?

Double Duty: Cherries (Whole Fruit in Syrup + Infusion + Preserve)

I’m pretty sure you don’t know how good you have it. Yes you, folks in the Pacific NW, where cherries are no big deal. Varying levels of tragedy have struck our local crop over the last few years… no one seems to grow them anymore as cherries are, at least in Connecticut anyway, a giant pain in the ass to maintain. The birds love them as much as we do (read: massive amounts of netting), and if we get a sudden unexpected rainy spring, much of the crop tends to split (read: very finicky). So – in short – though very few orchards grow cherries, and to do so around here they must be a little masochistic, we are very thankful that they are.

This post isn’t really double duty, it’s really triple duty. Because local cherries are $4.99/lb even when I pick them myself, and because I adore all things cherry – I am going to stretch every dollar I can carve out for them.

First Tour: Cherries in Bourbon Meyer Vanilla Syrup

Cherries + lemon. Cherries + vanilla. Cherries + bourbon. (Ok, who am I kidding – almost anything + bourbon.) YES. Why not all three? I pitted waaaaay too many sweet cherries (thanks Sarah for the help) and reserved the pits (you’ll see why in a minute). I used sweet Bing cherries, but you could use whatever kind of cherries happen to fall into your lap – sweet or sour. Now, for the laziest of infusions: I filled a few quart jars with fruit, poured 1/4 full with Bulleit Bourbon (my new obsession), topped the rest with a thin syrup, stuck in a split & scraped vanilla bean and the zest of a meyer lemon. It may not sound lazy, but it really is just pitting, making syrup, and stuffing things into a jar. Then the waiting period.

Why 24 hours? Much longer and the cherries start to discolor, and you get a decent infusion after only a day. On Day 2, once the syrup has a slight red tint, reserve some of the fruit for Tour 3, and put up the rest a la Well-Preserved. Psst: save an unprocessed jar in the fridge for a few bourbons & soda – 1/3 syrup, 2/3 soda, a few cherries and ok, maybe another splash of bourbon. You won’t be disappointed.

Second TourCherry Pit Liqueur a la What Julia Ate

First, settle your internal debate over prussic acid. If you just aren’t comfortable, compost your pits. If you feel no fear, this recipe makes something out of nothing, which I adore. I always have vodka on hand for infusions, so that’s what I used. Next year, I’ll have to try it with brandy. I haven’t had the chance to taste it yet (still infusing!) but I have a feeling this is going to make it into an apricot preserve later this summer.

Third Tour: Cherry Bourbon Ginger Preserves

Those cherries that you reserved from the infusion? Put them in a pan, mash with fresh grated ginger for flavor and crystallized ginger for color. Cook down until you’ve reached a good set. Oh wait – you walked away and it cooked down too much? Add a few more chopped fresh cherries, splash with a little bourbon and water and pay attention this time.

All in all, a satisfying way to stretch our precious, exasperating, expensive favorite cherries.

Cherries in Bourbon Meyer Vanilla Syrup
Three quarts of cherries, pitted
1 quart thin 1:2 simple syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Approximately 1 cup bourbon
Zest of one meyer lemon

Make a simple syrup with a 1:2 ratio of sugar to water (i.e. 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, boil briefly until dissolved) and let cool. Pit cherries, reserve pits. Add to a glass vessel of choice (preferably one with a lid). Fill the jar 1/4 of the way with your bourbon of choice. Split and scrape a vanilla bean into the jar, and add the scraped pod. Zest a meyer lemon into the jar as well. Top with simple syrup. Close the lid, shake well, store at room temperature for no more than 24 hours.

After infusing, prepare canners, jars and lids. Reserve the vanilla bean. I like to infuse in quart jars but pack into pint or jelly jars. Cold pack into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Top with hot, wet lids and process for 15 minutes.

Use in cocktails, reduced over ice cream, make into hand pies, even make your own soda. Even eat out of the jar. I won’t tell.

Cherry Bourbon Ginger Preserves
4 cups pitted cherries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
Splash of bourbon

Let cherries infuse (or macerate) overnight – either with the above recipe or with jam ingredients. Mash fruit, add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat until it just begins to thicken and the bubbles are about size of dimes. Pack into hot jars, top with hot, wet lids and process for 10 minutes.

This is a more liquidy preserve, but I like it that way. Spoon over yogurt, swirl into ice cream – this stuff is crazy delicious.