Thursday, August 25, 2011

Booze of the Week: Bitter Cherry Liqueur

Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms. – Ikkyu Sojun 

Photo: groovysuvi, Flickr ccl
I don't know if this is a good sign or not. I'm posting about booze again before the weekend.

Actually, in my defense, I've had this liqueur aging for a whole month. And not aging inside me but in a bottle. Will wonders never cease?

Photo: D H Wright, Flickr ccl
This recipe is an amalgam of a few recipes, plus some good old fashoined experience that I now have firmly under my belt. 

This is the deepest red liqueur I've made so far. So when I make pomegranate (around Christmas) it has something to live up to.

Actually, chokecherry will probably be darker, but I'm not sure if I'll make a liqueur out of them this year. The season’s nearly at its peak. There's always next year.

This is a slightly bitter liqueur. The addition of the cherry pits adds a very "tart/pucker" to the final product. If you're after a more sweet liqueur either halve the number of pits or leave them out altogether.

If you want, throw some of this liqueur
into chocolate ganache and make truffles!
Photo: ulterior epicure, Flickr ccl
I find the exceptionally sweet liqueurs a bit "cloying." The addition of the pits certainly cuts down the sweet factor. There is the same ratio of fruit to sugar syrup as is usual in my liqueur recipes but the result is substantially different.

Cherry pits are included in many recipes to add their particular bitter flavor. Pickled Cherries leave them in, as do Brandied Cherries. 

There's a recipe I saw for Cherry Pit Ice Cream that sounded more than a little interesting too, in case you were planing on throwing those pits away. That recipe ca be found at

If you've heard that stone fruit pits are poisonous, take a read here: 

Remember – we're not crushing the pits to use the fruit inside the stone. Just don't sit there and crack them open like walnuts. That's not our intent anyway.

Cherry pits are dried and ground into a Mid-eastern spice called Mahleb, so they can't be all bad.

Do the math. There's 60-80 pits in a recipe that makes 1L. They are not damaged in the infusion. Essentially we're using the outer stone, not the fleshy seed. As Julia Child said: "All things in moderation, including moderation."

The choice to include them is entirely up to you.

Bitter Cherry Liqueur
Makes about 750ml to 1 L
60-80 very ripe fresh cherries, with pits*
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1” wide piece of lemon rind
2 cups vodka (potato vodka preferred)

Place the cherries in a medium sized ceramic bowl and mash slightly. Heat the sugar, water and lemon rind in a saucepan until just boiling.

Remove from the heat and pour over the cherries. Mash the berries again, cover with plastic warp and place in the refrigerator for 5 days to extract the flavours.

After 5 days, strain the mixture through a jelly bag or fine piece of cloth. This will take a while, but a sieve isn't fine enough. You need to get out as much liquid as possible but leave behind any pulp.

Once clear, or fairly clear, or as clear as you're willing to stand, combine with the vodka. Stir well and place in a bottle. Keep cool and/or in the dark so the colour doesn't bleach out. It shouldn't, but it might. It's very, very red. Your infusion should last for at least 1 month, if you let it.

* To make the liqueur less “bitter” reduce the number of pits you include in your infusion. I used all the pits and it wasn’t exceedingly bitter, but it wasn’t terribly sweet, which I found very palatable. Note all the dire warnings in the intro text as well…


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