We recently lucked out with a major score of fresh Okanagan cherries. Normally I visit Penticton and the surrounding area mid-way through the summer, in perfect time for the middle of cherry season. I can never resist picking up a flat of cherries (and peaches, and apricots, and … well, you have already heard of my love of fruit) on the way home. Most often I stop at Bear’s fruit stand in Keremeos, a town that I’m sure solely exists in most people’s minds as a cluster of fruit stands marking the “almost in Penticton” point on the Crow’s Nest highway. Other times I’ve delighted in buying flats of cherries from directly from the farm, one time from a retired, bespectacled couple who looked straight out of 1965, sitting together under a beach umbrella on the lawn of their house and cherry grove.
But this year plans for the Okanagan fit our schedules best at the end of August. Surely in time for peaches, plums and early apples and pears, but not cherries. At the suggestion of folks and with the assistance of the good old Internet, I was able to find a lady selling flats of cherries on Craigslist. They were a song, compared to the cost of cherries at local markets, and they were even delivered to my door. Perfectly firm and ripe, all 20 pounds of them. For future reference, 10 pounds would have sufficed.
I had really just wanted to make some cocktail cherries for manhattans and make a few jars of canned cherries, but my newfound surplus got me thinking. Cherry everything seemed about right given the quantity on-hand so, slowly at first, we stemmed them all, pitted some, chopped many. And what we ended up with was cherries in light syrup, spiced cocktail cherries, cherry jam, cherry-infused bourbon and cherry vodka. The good thing about all of these recipes is that although they take a bit of prep work they’re virtually dead simple.
Infusing liquor is really as simple as fruit + vodka + wait. The bourbon version I made is still mingling on the shelf, and we are eager to try it. I made a vodka version as well, which was ready after a week and suggested that I fill the whole jar with cherries before filling with vodka. I’d probably just repeat it the same way as the bourbon version, because once you start drinking the vodka you have way too many boozy cherries. Maybe I should make an adult cake… Or next year I’ll try the cherry pit vodka from Everybody Likes Sandwiches to deal with my surplus pits. Canned cherries are basically simple syrup plus cherries (you don’t even have to pit them, hallelujah!) and then processing. I used a light syrup at a 4 cups of water : 1 cup of sugar ratio. As far as the cherry jam goes, to be honest I was tired of cherries at this point but for the sake of preserving the summetime I used the basic Certo recipe. It works well, no fuss, no muss. Tastes great warmed and used on ice cream. Cocktail cherries were easy too. The recipes I reviewed online (particularly this one) recommended reflecting the flavours of the drink you plan to use the cherries in. I had Manhattans on the mind, so used a demerara sugar simple syrup with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cherry-infused bourbon (or vodka)
- 1/4 jar stemmed, pitted cherries
- 3/4 jar bourbon (or vodka)
- Yep, that's it. Seal the jar and let the cherries mascerate for 3-4 weeks.
- Works really well with an ounce of the cherry bourbon, a splash of soda and an infused cherry to garnish.
- Once opened, keep refrigerated, or strain the cherries and store in your bar shelf or cart.
Brandied cocktail cherries
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 1/4 litre asparagus jars (about 20 oz total)
- 1/2 cup demererra sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 cup brandy
- 1 lb cherries (stemmed & pitted)
- In a small saucepan over high heat, combine water and spices.
- Bring to a boil over high heat and add the sugar.
- Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. You don't want the alcohol to evaporate when you add it.
- Add the brandy to the pot and leave to cool for a few more minutes.
- Put the cherries in the jar of your choice and top with the syrup mixture.
- Seal and put in the refridgerator.
- These aren't processed, so they're not shelf-stable as is. They are ready as quickly as a few days.
- Use the cherries in drinks as a garnish and add a dash of the liqueur to cocktails for a dash of flavour and colour.
- Will keep, in the fridge, for 2 months.
Now, I think I deserve a Manhattan after all that work, don’t you? Or maybe a nice Old Fashioned. Heck, let’s have No Bake Cherry Cheesecake while we’re at it.
We have a bumper crop of basil growing in wine crates on our patio and in a pot on our windowsill. That might imply that I have a fantastically green thumb, but really I take credit for the indoor plant only. The outdoor bounty is a result of buying a couple of huge plants from Trader Joe’s the other day. The basil I had growing in the garden is not as bushy as it should be – I blame the weather, but I’m sure periodic neglect deserves a credit as well.
After picking enough to make pesto yesterday I had a handful left over, along with the cheese and an extra dash of toasted pine nuts. Luckily I had all the ingredients on hand to make what’s become my new favourite salad! I’ve eaten it two days in a row now and the only thing stopping me from repeating it again today is my sad and strange lack of avacados, tomatoes and chicken. I suppose I shouldn’t cry over that though, because clearly I ate and enjoyed them all already. Trust, this is so delicious. The buttery crisp texture of the heirloom lettuces really makes a difference, so if you can get your hands on some from the farmers market or even the packaged lettuces at the grocery store definitely use it. If you don’t have pine nuts (and really, why would you when they’re so freakishly expensive) try substituting toasted walnuts instead. The whole thing blends together so nicely – it’s kind of like an avacado BLT, minus the bacon. Which reminds me, some crispy proscuitto would be amazing in this as well. Which also reminds me to recommend our favourite local Italian deli and meat market Cioffi’s. If you’re up in North Burnaby it’s worth a stop!
Summer Salad with Blackened Chicken
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 1 large salad
Serving Size: 3/4 litre mold jar
- generous handful baby heirloom lettuce leaves
- 1/2 zuchinni, matchsticked
- 1/2 avacado, sliced
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 red onion, slivered
- 1 handful of basil, torn or chopped
- 8 thin slivers of pecorino romano
- 1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 blackened chicken breast (rub recipe follows)
- pesto vinaigrette
- Layer your prepared veggies in a 3/4 litre mold jar, or in a deep plate.
- Top with pecorino romano, pine nuts and blackened chicken.
- Add dressing just before eating.
- To make the vinaigrette, simply combine 1 tsp pesto, 1 tsp olive oil and 2 tsp balasmic vinegar. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- 3 tbsp paprika
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight jar.
- To coat chicken, rub breasts with olive oil and roll in a few tbsp of the spice blend.
- Grill as you normally would.