Summer is the season for fresh cherries, and making brandied cherries allows you to enjoy their sweet taste year-round. This is an excellent way to preserve the fresh fruit while creating a boozy little treat. Brandied cherries are excellent as ice cream and dessert toppings, or you can skewer them for a cocktail garnish. As an extra bonus, you can add a splash of the spiced brandy syrup to Manhattans, metropolitans, and other cocktails.
Pitting the cherries is the most time-consuming part of this brandied cherry recipe, but it's all rather easy. Once the cherries are prepared, you'll make a spiced syrup, add brandy, then let the cherries steep until everything cools down. There are even storage options: Can the cherries if you prefer or just stick the jar in the fridge.
There are many ways to vary the flavor of brandied cherries. You can include just a few of the recipe's spices or add others in any combination you like. During the peak of cherry season, make up a few variations in separate jars, label each with your custom recipe, then enjoy discovering which combinations you like most.
Gather the ingredients.
Rinse the cherries then remove the pits using a cherry pitter or alternative objects such as a toothpick, chopstick, or unbent paper clip. Work over a bowl to catch the cherry juice along with the pits, placing the pitted cherries in a separate bowl.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the brown and white sugars and stir until completely dissolved.
Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the vanilla extract, cardamom, cloves, allspice, star anise, and cinnamon stick. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and discard the spices. Stir in the brandy and add the pitted cherries along with any juice. Let cool to room temperature.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cherries to a quart jar or two pint jars.
Pour the liquid over the cherries, covering them completely while leaving 1/2-inch of headspace in the jar. Secure the lid.
Place the jar in the refrigerator. If you prefer to use a traditional canning method, process the jar in boiling water for 10 minutes, allow it to cool, then store in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard or pantry. Either way, let the brandied cherries rest for 6 weeks before using to allow the flavor to develop.
- Pitting cherries is a messy affair, especially at the height of the cherry season when they're super juicy. Wear an apron or clothing you don't mind getting splashed with cherry juice. Have a damp cloth handy to wipe up the counter and to clean your hands.
- If you want to leave the stem intact, use the tip of a vegetable peeler or paper clip to carefully pit the cherry from the bottom. It's preferable to trim the stem to half its size.
- Strain the cherry juice from the bowl of pits with a fine-mesh strainer held over the pitted cherries.
- Whether stored in the refrigerator or canned using the water bath, the unopened jar of cherries should keep for up to a year (until next cherry season).
- Once opened, keep the jar of brandied cherries chilled in the refrigerator and enjoy them within a week. Use multiple smaller jars if you won't consume a full quart of cherries within that time.
- Use 1 cup of white sugar alone or switch to raw sugar.
- Use a flavored brandy that will complement the cherries. Apple brandies, such as calvados or applejack, are a good choice or try a cherry brandy like Germany's kirschwasser.
- Add a 2-inch piece of lemon zest to the spiced syrup.
- Add juniper berries, mace, or nutmeg.
- Use a whole vanilla bean instead of extract, adding it to the syrup then including it in the jar. Maximize the flavor by cutting a slit down one side of the pod.