Don’t blink – in case you missed it, cherry season has come and just as quickly gone again as suddenly as it appeared. In the midst of buying a house and all the insanity that comes part and parcel with that big life step, I took a lovely break to go to Belltown Hill Orchards with friends. We completely binged on the first day of cherry season – picking eight pounds in about forty minutes, not counting the ones in our bellies.
It was the perfect antidote to forget about it all. At least for a few hours. But the serenity found in the PYO orchard is not just preserver’s therapy. You see so many different types of people in the cherry orchard – families, couples, all generations – all out to get ‘em while the getting’s good. True to form, the cherries were picked out the next day and gone for the rest of the year shortly thereafter.
So what to do with the fleeting bounty of local cherries? I’ve made cocktail cherries before. Luxardo-ed to the max Maraschino Cherries and Cherries in Bourbon Meyer Vanilla Syrup. And I’ve discovered a few
commandments cardinal rules of jarred cherries along the way. First, thou shalt stem and pit your cherries the same day you plan to can them. Second, unless you have specific plans for them, spike the syrup with a tablespoon or two of alcohol just prior to the waterbath instead of fruit in full-on spirit. This makes for a much more versatile preserve. Third, make more than you think you’ll use, because the syrup and cherries themselves are equally delicious. Here is this year’s version, which are already being enjoyed with seltzer and lime bitters, but equally anticipated in a black Manhattan someday soon.
Cherries in Cinnamon, Bay and Cassis Syrup
5 cups sweet Bing cherries
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
Creme de cassis
1 cup cane sugar
2 cups water
Add spices into a jelly bag or cheesecloth bundle. Make 1:2 simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil and add spices. Simmer on very low heat for about 5 minutes and infuse for as long as you can, up to overnight. When ready to can, prepare canner, jars and reheat syrup. Pit cherries and cold pack into hot jars. Pour one tablespoon each bourbon and creme de cassis over the cherries and top with syrup. Leave approximately 1/2″ headspace and process for 10 minutes.