I know, it sounds epic, doesn’t it? Running around a cherry tree, picking bright red cherries by the handful, getting so messy that you end up licking the cherry juice off your hands. I get to do this every year with my grandmother, and even though it’s hot and humid and I’m always exhausted after taking the tree net down and climbing up on the ladder to pick the reddest, ripest, most delicious cherries you’ve ever seen, it’s so worth it. You get buckets upon buckets upon buckets of fresh, sweet cherries to consume.
But these are sour cherries, and despite them being delicious just the way they are, they need a little processing for something other than shove-one-in-your-mouth-and-spit-out-the-pit wonderfulness.
With my batch of cherries that my grandmother gave me (some went to her recipes, others went to neighbors and family members), I made sweet cherry syrup, and man was it good.
Sweet Cherry Syrup
Makes: 4 bottles worth (one was a Jack Daniels bottle, two of them recycled frappuccino bottles, and one was a jar from some artisan olives or something. I save jars. A lot.)
4-6 C. pitted cherries (I have no idea how many I actually had. I had a big ziploc bag half-full, and then when I pitted them I Just threw them into a strainer. If I had to stare at a measuring cup and guess… maybe 4 cups? Maybe a little more? I don’t know.)
2 C. Sugar
2 C. Water
– Bust out your big 4 qt pot for this. Dump your water and sugar into it, and pop it on medium heat. Make sure your sugar dissolves, and watch it carefully- you want the beginnings of a boil.
-Throw your cherries in and let it simmer. Don’t bother skimming off the white scuzzy stuff as it simmers away, it’s normal. See?
-Let your cherries and simple syrup chill out for the better part of an hour on a simmer. Come by and poke it a bit, give it a stir, check and see how much liquid you’ve lost. As you can see by the terrible image above, by the time you’re done with it- you’re going to lose a good 1/2″ to 3/4″ of liquid. That’s cool. You want that.
-Turn off the heat, let it cool, and stick an immersion blender in there, or transfer it to a blender (I cheated and whirled it around my Magic Bullet a few times. I had to do a few batches, but I got most of the bits out). If you like the bits, don’t- but I prefer a smoother syrup.
-Once it’s all smooth (and it’ll look like weird cherry soup- once again, normal), go ahead and dish it out into your bottles. If you used a stick blender, transfer it to a pitcher and pour into the wide lipped jars first. Once you get to the smaller bottle, it’s infinitely easier to pour. If yours is chunky, use canning jars or something with a wide enough lip to accept cherry chunks. I had a few chunks still running rampant through my syrup, and the Jack Daniels bottle almost had an accident. Seriously, pour slow, pour careful, and remember that hot syrup is very very VERY hot syrup. Like, molten.
Let them cool down to room temperature before sticking them in the fridge where they go!
Then made some funky labels and give them to friends!
You didn’t think I was done, did you?
Oh no. This syrup has possibilities.
You can use it on ice cream, add it to a soda for a cherry twist, pour it on top of angel food cake, use it as a base for cherry icing (if you mix it in with some store bought vanilla icing, I promise I won’t tell!), or use mix it in with some gelatin for some badass cherry jello.
Or you could put BOOZE IN IT.
Yep. I made some sweet, delicious cherry booze. I’m not sure what to call it- large batch cherry cocktail? A love potion? I don’t know.
I mixed up another 3 qts of water, and an additional 4 cups of sugar, and brought it to a boil, then threw in 6 bags of raspberry zinger tea to steep. After it was a nice dark tea color, I added in about 1/2 cup honey, and the red-lidded jar’s worth of cherry syrup. I let it chill out for a bit on low heat, and then poured into a glass jug.
Then I added the vodka. About 3/4 of a fifth (cook’s gotta have some too, right?) glug-glug-glugged into the jug, and it got stuck into the fridge.
After about 24 hours chillin in the chill box, I hauled it to a party and distributed it evenly between the party-goers. Everyone had a merry old time, and I went home with a nearly empty jug. Below is the result.
Try this one on your family and friends. It goes quickly because it’s so gosh-darn sweet and punch-like but it’s strong. So worth it.
There ya go. Sweet Cherry syrup and it’s not-so-sweet counterpart.