In the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with so many things. It is a fresh foodie’s heaven and the abundant bounty, wildcrafted or home-grown is almost unparelled.
That being said, much of the beauty that surrounds can be attributed to our healthy dosage of rainfall.
What does this have to do with fruit or booze???
When we preserve the fruits of the summer, in the dead of winter we can be reminded of the scents and flavors of the richness of summer. A soggy, gray day turns into a balmy and bright afternoon. When the rains have come, and I long for summer, I look to my pantry to cheer me and remind me that the sun will return again…
An easy and fun method of preserving summer fruit is with alcohol. I prefer brandy or vodka, and almost any fruit can be used. I have only tried cherries and berries personally, but many others use citrus, all stone fruits, cranberries, strawberries and apples. There are too many choices! Although this method is not practical for preserving large amounts of fruit, it makes a delicious treat that has many culinary uses or is great on its own. (But not too much of this boozy fruit, unless you are prepared for the outcome!)
Preserving the harvest is a key component in self-sufficiency, and there are many ways to “preserve” aside from canning and freezing. Preserving in alcohol is an ancient and effective method of preservation that requires no additional energy to chill or heat. It is a quick and easy, and the “fruits” of our summer labor are quick to reward our efforts. Not only do you end up with a booze-infuse of your fruit, but you also make a lovely homemade liqueur in the process.
For this project you’ll need: a bit of sugar, at least 80 proof alcohol of your choice, a clean jar with a lid, and fresh fruit of your choice. I used fresh, Washington grown cherries that I washed and stemmed, but did not pit. Additionally, adding spices and/or vanilla beans can be a great way to add layers of subtle flavor to your liqueur.
My method was simple: I filled my clean glass jar full of cherries to the top and lightly packed them in. I didn’t bother to sterilze my jar at all because the alcohol makes quick work of anything that would be potentially bothersome. (Hooray for zero prep work!) I tossed in about a tablespoon of sugar into each jar; this part is not an exact science–use more sugar if you’d like sweeter things. *Some make a simple syrup for this step, but I’m lazy and busy, so I’m fine with just tossing the sugar in. 🙂 I poured my 100 proof vodka over the cherries until it covered them completely and reached the top of the jar. I put my lid on tight and gave it a little shake. I will keep it in a cool place with my oxymel and all of my other things that need a little shake from time to time.
I plan to let my flavors meld until the holidays; at which point I will debut my cherries, or “cheeries” at a holiday dinner and “Wow!” my friends and family with another kind of cherry “preserve.” For the impatient, you should wait at least 4-6 weeks before you consume. The longer you wait, the more the magic happens 🙂
**This method is also great for preserving fresh spices such as ginger, galangal and tumeric, since the alcohol will burn off during cooking.
The New York Times, in their “Dining and Wine” section provides these great ideas for using alcohol preserved fruit:
FRUIT preserved in alcohol makes a marvelous dessert topping, spooned over, poundcake, panna cotta or ricotta, and it has other uses:
BOOZY FRUIT TART: Line a tart pan with sweet tart dough and fill with frangipane. Top with pieces of fruit and bake until golden.
CAKE GLAZE: Mix the liqueur with enough confectioners’ sugar to make it thick and creamy, but still runny enough to pour, then spoon it over simple cakes.
CLAFOUTIS: Use preserved Concord grapes in place of cherries.
COBBLERS, CRISPS AND PIES: Add pieces of boozy fruit to fresh fruit.
DRUNKEN FOOL: Purée the fruit and gently fold into whipped cream, to taste. Chill before serving.
FRUITY APERITIF: Put a piece of fruit and a little of its liqueur in the bottom of a flute and top with sparkling wine.
HAIR OF THE DOG MUFFINS: Add diced fruit to your favorite muffin recipe. If you are planning to serve these for breakfast, note that much, but not all, of the alcohol will evaporate.
ROASTS: Warm brandied plums or Concord grapes and serve with roasted pork, chicken, duck, quail or venison.
TIPSY TRIFLE: Use pieces of fruit in a traditional custard-and-cake trifle.
UPSIDE-DOWN TIPPLE CAKE: Sprinkle a well-buttered cake pan with brown sugar, then layer with slices of drained fruit. Cover with your favorite butter cake batter and bake until done. Serve with cream whipped with a little of the fruit liqueur.
I’ve scoured the web to bring you more info on preserving fruit in alcohol, and here are my favorite articles:
- Cherries in Vodka, by City Boy Hens
- Spiking Fruit in Order to Preserve It, by the New York Times
- How to Preserve Fruit in Alcohol, by Foodista
- Preserving Fruit Flavors in Alcohol: Homemade Liqueurs, by Growing a Greener World
- Preserving Fruits in Alcohol, by Amy Pennington
What ways have you used alcohol to preserve your harvest? Do you make your own liqueurs?
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