This recipe for flavorful brandied cherries, from Daniel Shoemaker, is worth the extra work.
- 5 lbs ripe, firm sweet cherries
- 1/2 cup juniper berries, whole
- 1/2 cup allspice berries, whole
- 6 cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
- 3 star anise pods
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed, strained
- 3 cups water
- 2 1/2 cups brandy
- 1 1/2 cups white rum
- 1 cup bourbon
First, clear away anything from your work space that you don't want to get spattered with cherry juice. It sprays and it stains, even when you're careful, so wear clothes you don't mind staining.
Pull off the stems and punch out the pits of the cherries with a cherry pitter.
Add the juniper berries, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks and star anise to the center of a double layer of cheesecloth and tie into a secure bundle.
Combine the sugar, the lemon juice and the 3 cups of water in another large stockpot that holds at least 10 quarts. Bring to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the spice bundle and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the cherries. Using the slotted spoon, stir the cherries until they are all soaked in the syrup and are thoroughly warmed. (You don't want to actually cook the cherries, just allow them to absorb the syrup.)
Return the liquid and cherries to a simmer and pour in the brandy, rum and bourbon, stirring to combine. When the liquid is warmed through, remove the pot from the heat. (Be sure not to boil the liquid because you don't want to cook off too much alcohol.)
Using a wide-mouth funnel or jar filler and a slotted spoon, pack each canning jar with cherries, filling it to the top. Give the jar a good tap on the counter to settle the fruit so there are minimal air gaps. Ladle the hot syrup into the jars up to about half an inch from the rim. Place the flat part of the lid on the jar, and screw the band on lightly.
Run the jars through a hot water bath. Allow them to cool and let the seals form properly. You'll hear a nice pop as the vacuum forms and the lid is sucked down. Tighten the rings of all the jars that have sealed properly.