Cerises à l’eau de vie

cherries in brandy 2

Cherries in brandy

This is a simple way to preserve cherries while they’re in season and enjoy them throughout the rest of the year. Follow the steps, label your jars with the month and year, and put them away in a dark place like a cupboard. Forget about them for a few months — say until Christmas — and then remember what a treat you have waiting to be opened.

In France, it is easy to find eau de vie pour fruits, a flavorless distillation that clocks in at 38 percent alcohol content. If this is not available where you live, I’d suggest using a bland vodka — or any brandy, cognac, armagnac or grappa.

As for the cherries, go for a not-too-sweet variety. The Rainier cherries pictured above work well, as do red bing cherries and morello sour cherries.

cherries in brandy 1You will also need jars that can be hermetically sealed, preferably with a rubber ring, as shown in the photo. The recipe is for 2 one-pint jars.

1 pound fresh cherries
1-3/4 cup (400 ml) eau de vie, vodka or brandy
4 tbsp. white sugar

Make sure your jars are clean and dry. If you rinse the cherries, allow them to dry before beginning.

cherries in brandy 3Snip off the ends of the cherry stems, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) of stem. The stems add a delightful nutty flavor to the finished product.

cherries in brandy 5Pack the cherries into the jars, leaving a little space at the top. Fill the jars with the alcohol. Add 2 tbsp. sugar to each jar.

Seal the jars and give them a shake. It will take about 24 hours for the sugar to dissolve completely. To help this process along, shake the jars from time to time, turning them upside down and back again. When the sugar has completely dissolved, label your jars and put them away for at least three months.

cherries in brandy 4Serve the cherries on their own in pretty glasses, or over vanilla ice cream for a special dessert. Serves many, and also makes a wonderful gift.


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8 Responses to Cerises à l’eau de vie

  1. Rebecca says:

    I just attempted something like this and need advice. I used dark sweet cherries, washed and pitted them, put them in a jar, covered with Kirschwasser, and stored in the refrigerator.

    These cherries are for a black forest cake, for a birthday that is 4 weeks away. I was hoping this method would preserve the cherries since they probably won’t be in season by the time I make the cake. (Normally this cake recipe calls to soak the cherries in kirschwasser overnight.) The cherries will be halved and then used in the filling of the cake. I have a lot of questions:

    1. Since I pitted the cherries, will they just turn to mush by the time I use them? A bit soft is OK since this is for a cake filling, but I don’t want alcoholic mush either.

    2. There was a bit of air in the top of the jar – is this a problem? All of the cherries are pretty much covered in the kirschwasser.

    I’m hoping I don’t have to start this process over. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Meg says:

      Hi Rebecca. Well, this is a rather unorthodox approach to the recipe, but I’m sure it will be fine for your cake. As a general rule, it’s better not to pit the cherries for two reasons — first, they hold their shape better, and second, the pits impart a delightful almond flavor to the alcohol. But in the event, I’m sure they won’t turn to mush, so not to worry. The space at the top of the jar is not a problem, in fact it’s a good thing. But did you add any sugar? If not, please open the jar and do that now. And take the jar out of the fridge! The cherries should mature at room temperature, and the sugar will help the maturation process. Good luck, and please tell us how this turns out. All best, Meg

      • Rebecca says:

        Thank you, Meg! I put them in the fridge because I live in southern California and don’t have air conditioner – sometimes it’s a bit warm in the kitchen. Do you think this is a problem?

        I appreciate the fast reply!

        • Meg says:

          The best solution is to put them in a dark place for a month, say a cupboard or closet. If you’ve added sugar, you need to shake the jar from time to time until the sugar dissolves. But the heat shouldn’t be a problem, as the alcohol will protect the fruit. For example, you probably wouldn’t put a bottle of bourbon in the fridge. It’s the same principle.

  2. Tom Drohan says:

    The Kentucky version is made with bourbon – Cherry Bounce – delicious!

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