Every once in a while, I get an itch to make something in the kitchen aside from Marlos. I know, total shocker, right? Sometimes I use a recipe, sometimes I don't, but I always let the fresh products we can find here in Cali guide me towards the end product.
To me, there's nothing that says "Summer's back!" than the bounty at the Farmers' markets this time of year. While my obsession with these markets is fervent throughout the months, I get particularly giddy on Sundays in the late spring and early summer when the first tomatoes make an appearance and the fruit variety expands beyond strawberries and apples.
One of the produce items that I most lovingly cherish in summer is cherries. The gorgeous deep reds, purples and flushed pinks & whites of the different varieties make my mouth water and my mind day dream about different desserts and flavors I can work them into. Despite the dependable deliciousness of traditional clafoutis or summer pudding, I kept remembering the sessions on canning in pastry school that utilized cherries for a slightly naughtier - though no less delicious- fate. So this year we picked up some cherries with more adult intentions.
The Handsome Helper from my cookie chronicles introduced me to the manhattan cocktail when we first met a couple years back. Having been a martini girl to date, manhattans were a complete departure from the salty, gin soaked drink that I convinced myself I loved. While any balanced cocktail is a thing of beauty, manhattans are particularly wonderful when artfully composed of the right blend of bourbon (my whiskey of choice), sweet vermouth, bitters and a brandied cherry. It was with a thirst for this rocks-glass-of-perfection that we bought some cherries at to preserve.
All excited at this idea, I got the cherries home before realizing that I was without a proper cherry pitter. After some quick YouTube research though, the 'Grandma method' of de-pitting cherries with a paperclip looked both simple and clean, certainly effective enough in a pinch.
30 minutes later and I had a cherry crime scene on my hands. The near-black juice was everywhere, along with the errant pits that escaped my grasp when they didn't so easily scoop out of the fruit as the videos detailed. I blame a defective paperclip....and recommend wearing gloves should you use this method. The juice left my nails and cuticles stained an unsavory color for days. Charming, eh?
The easy recipe I found called for an equal proportion of sugar to water for the simple syrup you then add the alcohol to as the preserving liquid. The recipe recommended white or turbinado sugar for a coarser grain. I ended up using half organic cane sugar and half a maple sugar because I thought that maple + bourbon = yum. Once the the sugar dissolved we added the brandy and took the mixture off the heat. While there is bit of science to preserving, chefs and bloggers agree that there's no reason to be too discerning with the liquor; I found several recipes suggesting rums, whiskeys, various liquers or even wine. Let your taste buds make the selection or try them all. There's enough whiskey and vanilla ice cream in the world to do both.
The brandied cherries are now beckoning from their mason jars, getting more and more potent and perfect as the days progress. So last weekend we took out some freezer-frosted glasses and whipped up a batch of manhattans with our homemade accoutrement. As the sun set late in the day and the work week faded behind us, we toasted to summer and the hope of many more weekends sweetened with brandied cherries.