It’s cherry season, and because these rubies are not great shippers or keepers, now’s the time to indulge. Here’s an easy recipe that transforms the essence of cherries into a tasty liqueur that is also a medicinal tonic.
Historians note that in September 1784 George Washington packed a canteen of cherry bounce for a trip west across the Allegheny Mountains. It was not, however, recorded whether he imbibed for its perky flavor or as a tonic. Either way, as its name suggests, this fruit liqueur imbues you with bounce, and it is a kitchen remedy to counter carpal tunnel, arthritis and gout. This link has more on the medicinal properties of cherries.
While you may bounce either sweet or sour cherries, favor sour cherries, as they contain more anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain-relieving properties than sweet cherries. Sour cherries are so meltingly tender and perishable that they bruise at a touch and are thus difficult to find fresh. Not to worry—you may use frozen cherries with equal success.
Note: Commercial cherries are one of the fruits highest in pesticide residues; favor organic cherries.
Makes approximately 2 quarts liqueur and 1 quart cherries
6 cups fresh or unsweetened frozen and thawed sour or sweet cherries
1 or 2 cups unrefined cane sugar
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, if using sweet cherries
2 teaspoons whole allspice or cloves, optional
2 cinnamon sticks, optional
1 quart brandy, rum, whiskey or vodka
If you are using fresh cherries, remove and discard the cherry stems, but do not pit them. Wash and dry the fruit and pack it (or, if using thawed frozen fruit, just pack it) into 2 quart-size glass jars. Add 1 cup of sugar to each jar if you are using sour cherries. If you are using sweet cherries, add ½ cup sugar to each jar, along with 2 tablespoons lemon juice per jar. Add the spices, if using. Cover with brandy.
Stir, cover, tightly, and set on the counter. Over the next few days, stir a few times, or invert the jar until the sugar dissolves several times a day. After 4 days, place it in a cool cellar or refrigerate it for 6 to 8 weeks.
Strain, bring the bounce to room temperature, and serve in small cordial or wine glasses, as you would serve a liqueur. It will keep refrigerated for a year or more. While most of the cherry essence is now in the liqueur, you may pit the cherries and enjoy them as a fortified, all-natural version of the maraschino.