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Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup for Big Summer Potluck

Tart Cherries at the Union Square Greenmarket

Wednesday afternoon, I was passing through the Union Square Greenmarket, heading back uptown after having attended a lunch meeting at WeCreate NYC that was put together by a fellow blogger friend Emily Hanhan of Nominvorous, when these beautiful, shiny crimson orbs caught my eye.  I had actually thought that cherry season had passed me by for this year, so I was a bit surprised to see them.  I picked up a pint, not even knowing yet what I was going to do with them, their deep, ruby color just calling to me to make something special.

Tart cherries washed and ready to pit

It didn’t take long for me to figure out what to fix using the cherries.  For the past week or so, in person and on line, many folks in the blogger community have been discussing what they would be bringing to contribute to this year’s Big Summer Potluck, which starts tonight.  I’ve never been to this gathering, and with so many fantastic food folks and amazing cooks as my fellow attendees, I knew I wanted to make something that showcases what my website and food philosophy are about.  After doing a little research about recipes, I decided that whipping up a batch of Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup would be just the thing to add to the mix.  This recipe turned out so well, in fact, that I’ve decided to enter these into the Oxo Cherry Recipe Contest.

Pitted cherries – only a tiny mess created

After pitting a pint of cherries over the sink, so as to minimize staining, I threw together a simple sugar syrup combined with a bunch of spices that I had in my kitchen that I thought might add an exotic twist to the mixture.  Then, I spiked it with brandy, added a bit of lemon peel for some freshness and kick, and dumped in the cherries to cook.  They released their gorgeous red color and cooked down to become mouth-puckeringly tart on the inside and smoothly sweet on the outside.  I have no idea how we’ll consume them during the weekend, but I can see these as an ideal garnish for refreshing summer beverages, folded into ice cream, ladled over waffles or pancakes, or as part of a cheese platter for an alfresco meal.  Now that I write this, I wonder if I should have made a few more batches just to hang onto for myself rather than giving them all away this weekend.

Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup

Prep Time: an hour or so

Serving Size: 3/4 of a Mason jar full

Ingredients: 1 c. organic Cane Sugar 1 c. Water 6 whole Allspice Berries 8 whole Black Peppercorns 2 whole Anise Stars 3 whole Cloves 1/4 c. Brandy 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract 1/2 Lemon’s worth of strips of Lemon Peel 1 quart Tart Cherries, pitted*


Starting sugar syrup

Put first 6 ingredients into a large saucepan over low to medium heat and boil the mixture until makes a thick syrup. All the sugar should be dissolved and the liquid should reduce by 1/3. This will take about 10 minutes.

Syrup ready for cherries

Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the flame. Pour in the brandy and the vanilla extract. Add the strips of lemon peel. Stir to combine.

Cherries added to the syrup

Then, add the cherries, making sure to immerse them as best as you can in the syrup. At first, there will be some of them bobbing up on top of the liquid, but as they cook down and release their juices, all of the cherries will slowly melt into the syrup.

Cherries cooked down in syrup

Place over a low flame to boil for at least 45-50 minutes, until cherries start to break down and the sauce reduces by almost 2/3 to become a very thick liquid.

Jarring the cherries

Ladle the cherries into a jar and then pour the syrup over top of the cherries. Close the jar and keep it refrigerated until being used. These are not preserved cherries, so they should be eaten within a week or so.  I also removed the lemon peel and the whole spices from the syrup as I found them as I didn’t want the syrup to become overly-dominated by those tastes.

Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip:

This Oxo cherry pitter was in our goodie bags at Eat, Write, Retreat this year. I hung onto it thinking I that maybe, possibly, I might use it if I made a pie or something. It is fantastic! It made pitting the cherries so neat and only minorly messy, as you can see from the photo of the pitted cherries further above. If you are looking for a hand-held pitter, I recommend trying this one out to see if you like it.  

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