As luck would have it, I found that I still had a little over 5 lbs. of sweet cherries in the fridge this weekend. This, after having eaten tons of what I’d originally bought, and a friend stopping by with another sack of them to toss into champagne flutes (quite a festive ‘welcome home’ party, but that’s another story).
Last summer, I’d come across different recipes for ‘drunken cherries’; most of them involved soaking them for various periods of time in Everclear or brandy. I experimented with several kinds of alcohol and found that Jack Daniels was by far the most complimentary. I ended up putting up 7 or 8 pints of these lovely jewels, and despite the rather vast quantity, they didn’t last very long. Although perfect straight from the jar, they’re also a lovely garnish for a Manhattan or Side Car, plunked into the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass. Or, tossed with a little cornstarch slurry, make for a decadent pie or cobbler. And the syrup from the jar is heavenly, stirred into some iced tea or lemonade. So many possibilities!
(If you’ve ever attempted to pit cherries, it’s a daunting task – unless you have one of these little babies. I can’t live without my OXO cherry pitter! It makes fast work of removing fruit from the stone. Just the same, I recommend wearing a good apron and (preferably) a dark shirt. Juice gets to flying fast when you fall into a rhythm.)
Bing Cherries & Jack Daniels – yields about 4 pints (with a little left over, if you’re lucky, to eat straight from the pot)
5 lbs. sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
juice of 3 lemons (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice)
After pitting the cherries, place them in a large, wide non-reactive pot. Stir in a cup of the sugar and the whiskey and allow to sit at room temperature for a few hours, giving them a little what-for with a wooden spoon every once in a while. Get a water bath canner ready and sterilize your jars.
Stir in the other cup of sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil over a medium heat and continue to boil at a simmer for about 20 minutes. You want to make sure the fruit keeps its shape; you’re not making jam.
Fill jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process in water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a tea towel, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check for seal after about an hour and refrigerate any jars that haven’t properly sealed.