Cuisine: Christmas Recipes

Brandied Cherries

My state of the art cherry pitter.

For years we had a big – I mean BIG – cherry tree, but eventually it fell to disease and we had to chop it down and plant another. That one didn’t reach maturity before we had to move, but by then I was hooked on having a freezer full of cherries. Now every year I wait like a cougar in a tree for the prices to drop: $6.99, $4.99, $3.99, then, finally last week, $2.99 a pound and I pounced!

Judy sneaking cherries

The California cherries are the first, then Washington state, then finally, fresh BC cherries from the Okanagan Valley, the inland, fruit and wine producing region of the province.  Sweet, dark and Juicy, this year they are very BIG – almost too big for my doubled barrel cherry pitter. Yes, I’m serious about my cherries.

I usually freeze them with a dusting of sugar (don’t judge me!) but this year I seemed to hear about brandied cherries at every turn. “Too much trouble,” I thought, but they did sound good – Christmas gifts, I rationalized – and I soon found myself in the liquor store, looking at Brandy.

“Use a brandy you would want to drink,” the recipe cautioned. But I knew I wouldn’t want to drink any of it. Then I saw the Sliivovica (pronounced Slivovi-ch-a) and was flooded with fond memories of travelling in Eastern Europe where every generous host brings out the Sliivovica. Not good tasting! But as a woman I could gracefully decline, and our Czech friend Peter could say he was driving, but my poor husband always had to drink a glass with the host – even at breakfast!

Those were the days.

So I bypassed the fancy French brandy and bought the bottle of the crystal clear Croatian Plum Brandy, the only brand of Sliivovica they sold. Peter had told us how as children, in plum season, they would collect prune plums on the way home from school and drop them in a barrel fermenting in the shed on the way into the house so their dad could make his own Sliivovica. We visited his house, family compound really, in a small Czech town where his Aunt and cousin’s family still live, and I could just picture it.

So I bought the bottle, and then was plagued with doubt as to whether it would work in my recipe. And, like most of my cooking attempts it had quickly become my recipe.

But oh my goodness! I tasted a bit of the liquor after boiling the cherries in it with the sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves and wow! It’s going to be amazing! Now if I can just wait the prescribed 4 – 6 weeks.

I might have to buy another bottle and make another batch. The cherries will be around for at least another week.

Let me know how yours turn out!

 

Print Recipe
Brandied Cherries
These preserved sweet cherries pack a wallop! Perfect on ice cream for desert.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 4 -6 weeks
Servings
1/2 pint jars
Ingredients
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 4 -6 weeks
Servings
1/2 pint jars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pit and stem cherries and place in a large glass bowl.
  2. Mix brandy and both sugars in a sauce pan and stir. Add cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.
  3. Pour over cherries in bowl and stir with a non-reactive wooden or plastic spoon or spatula.
  4. While the cherries are cooling, sterilize 7 - 1/2 pint canning jars and lids. (I put jars in a baking pan, pour boiling water into and around the jars to the half way point, and place in a 250° F. oven for half an hour. I boil the lids in water in a pot for 10 minutes.)
  5. Fill jars with cherries and brandy, Put on the lids and place in the refrigerator for 4 - 6 weeks. These jars are not sealed and cannot be stored out of the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

Those were the instructions. If you can wait! My tip - DON'T TASTE THE LIQUOR OR YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO WAIT.

I've never made them before, so I don't know what happens if you keep them in the fridge until Christmas - which is 5 months from cherry season. With all that sugar and alcohol I don't think they could go bad. Maybe soft? I'll try it and let you know.

Best Christmas Fruitcake Ever

First, I want to thank everyone who came to the facebook launch of Home for Christmas, the last of this first batch of Fortune Bay books. (Don’t worry, there should be another one coming out next summer, 2017. Join my mailing list for news of new books.)

It was great to hang out with some readers who are quickly becoming friends, and to meet so many new potential readers from as far away as  South Africa, Holland, New Zealand and Australia!

I promised to put up my recipe for fruit cake – guaranteed to turn skeptics into fans. So here it is.

The secret is the strawberry jam, kirsch brandy, pineapple step.
It still tastes like fruit cake, just moist and fruity and good.

I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, who originally found it in the Toronto Star many years ago. Apparently it was sent in by a reader from Winchester Ontario which, coincidentally is where my sister lives. I love when synchronicity happens!

There are quite a few steps, but worth the trouble. It doesn’t really take that long and you end up with fruitcake to eat and give away.

My recipe says “make in late October”, so I better get at it!

Judy

Print Recipe
Best Christmas Fruitcake Ever
Guaranteed to turn skeptics into fans. The secret is the strawberry jam, kirsch brandy, pineapple step. It still tastes like fruit cake, just moist and fruity and good. Originally called "Willis Fruit Cake".
Prep Time 2 days
Cook Time 2 hr 20 min.
Passive Time 2 months
Servings
mini-loafs
Ingredients
Day 1, Group 2
Day 2, Group 3
Prep Time 2 days
Cook Time 2 hr 20 min.
Passive Time 2 months
Servings
mini-loafs
Ingredients
Day 1, Group 2
Day 2, Group 3
Instructions
Day 1, Group 1
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, cover with plastic and leave at room temperature overnight.
Day 1, Group 2
  1. Simmer pineapple and sugar for 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool and stir in brandy. Refrigerate overnight.
Day 2, Group 3
  1. Pre-heat oven to 275°.
  2. Mix dry ingredients.
  3. In a very large bowl, toss fruit and nuts in 1/2 cup of dry ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
  5. Stir in dry ingredients alternating with pineapple mixture. Combine lightly between additions.
  6. Pour over flour-coated fruit and nuts mixture. Mix well.
  7. Pour into prepared pans. (I line mine with parchment paper.) Put in preheated oven with a baking dish of water to keep loaves from drying out.
  8. Bake at 275° for 2 hr and 20 min.
  9. Cool. Wrap in brandy soaked cloths (or rum, Fireball or fruit juice). Wrap with foil and store at room temperature in a cool room.
  10. Douse periodically with brandy or juices as the cloth dries out.
  11. Enjoy at Christmas and beyond.