Preserving, Recipes

Bourbon Sour Cherries

Bourbon Sour Cherries - Perfect for ice cream or by the spoonful
Bourbon Sour Cherries – Perfect for ice cream or by the spoonful

Almost all fruits can be put up in simple syrup. No need to search for fancy canning recipes, just can as is with anything from a super light syrup (10%) to heavy syrup (50%) and save them for a winter cobbler or pie. I put up peaches three years ago when I started canning and honestly it was pretty awful. I hadn’t yet mastered the skill of blanching, essential for easy peel peaches. They still tasted like peaches but were soft and squishy when I opened them a few months later. I had to drain the syrup and peaches for a good hour just to remove enough moisture so they wouldn’t soak through my pie crust. It was still a summer pie in the middle of February, but I was not impressed. It was then that I swore off whole fruit canning. I’m a perfectionist, and if I couldn’t do it perfectly (the first time…) I figured jars of jam and a freezer full of berries was plenty good.

I was perfectly content with my decision until my friend and I opened up a jar of her sour cherries from last harvest. There was no need for cobbler. We put together an elaborate cheese plate to serve them with but found eating them by the spoonful out of the jar was most effective. I pleaded to take home one of her last jars and poured its fruit and syrup contents over generous bowls of vanilla ice cream. Pure magic. I knew I wouldn’t be lucky enough to keep stealing her canned cherries (did I mention she’s 4 states away?) so I’d have to suck it up and go back on my “no whole fruit” canning rule. Of course, being me, I couldn’t just use simple syrup. There had to be a twist.

There are plenty of recipes out there for bourbon peaches, bourbon apple butter, even bourbon tomato jam. So why not bourbon cherries? I scoured every canning book I had plus online sources and the general consensus is alcohol is a preservative. Often times you don’t even have to process the jars (like a few bourbon cherry recipes I came across) but the shelf life is a bit shorter and I feel a bit safer knowing they’re really sealed. So I toyed with my simple syrup recipe, adding enough bourbon to get the flavor but not completely saturate the cherries in booze. After canning the cherries, I ended up with an extra cup of cherry bourbon syrup. Not a bad situation to be in. Mixed with a bit of seltzer and it’s the perfect summer cocktail!

Sour cherries are a bit softer, juicier and like the name SOUR. Perfect for pies and preserves
Sour cherries are a bit softer, juicier and like the name SOUR. Perfect for pies and preserves

Bourbon Sour Cherries (Makes about 3 half-pint jars)

  • 4 c sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • 1 1/2 c sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1 / 4 c bourbon

Mix cherries, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla bean with seeds in a medium bowl. Let macerate 4 hours to really extract all the juices. Discard vanilla bean. In a medium saucepan stir together cherries with juice, remaining sugar, water and bourbon. Cook over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to a slow boil and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until cherries are heated through. Ladle cherries into half-pint jars. Cherries should be packed tightly but not crammed. Cover cherries with syrup leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

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16 thoughts on “Bourbon Sour Cherries”

    1. I know. My trick is to hide them deep in the pantry so I forget (or at least try). I try to save things I’ve canned for at least a month or two before eating. Otherwise what’s the point?!

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