Friday, July 1, 2011

Cherry Pit Liqueur


I was complaining for a whole week about how there would be no local cherries this year due to weather conditions. But then I stopped in at the Lawrence Farms Orchard in Newburgh expecting nothing more than a fun day with my son, and got rewarded with my favorite cherry: sours. I think sour cherries taste more like cherries than sweet ones do. Does that make sense? Last year, also a bad cherry crop, I made one sacred jar of sour cherry vanilla jam. It was so good that I cried a little inside every time I had a spoonful.

Montmorency hanging on a tree.
I bought about ten pounds of cherries, and they were on sale for $3.99 a pound, which to me is still pretty expensive. But once I started picking, I couldn't stop. There were two kinds, the very sour and bright red Montmorency, which has yellow flesh, and the other one was sweeter and darker, with red flesh, and I can't remember what the owner called it, but it was sweet enough to eat right off the tree. I made Montmorency jam with white balsamic vinegar, and the other cherries became a jam with homemade black cherry brandy. Right now, I'm busy with starting a jam company, that posting jam recipes will probably not happen. But why not take a look at Nomnivorous's beautiful balsamic cherry preserves? And I know there's some sour cherry love over at Food in Jars. Sour cherry anything is SO worthwhile.

Montmorency in a big bucket.
To return to my story: I had four pounds of each kind. That's not a huge amount of cherries, but to be honest, cherries are kind of a pain to pit. Everybody has their favorite choice of pitter. I know OXO has one that is a favorite among jammers, like Hitchhiking to Heaven and Snowflake Kitchen. You might also want to check out Punk Domestics' Cherry Pitter Guide. There was some conversation recently among some canners about this topic, and I brought up how I used to pit them as a child: my mother handed me a bobby pin, stretched open, and you used the closed end to scoop out the pit. Miserable, some people commented. There is also the handy paper clip for scooping your pits. Or the ever handy no pitter style: use your hands and rip them open. I did this for the Montmorency cherries. Really they just slip out. But for the darker sour cherries, I used my trusty ancient pitter/press. It works pretty darn well for an old gal. 

The old gal done good.
 What to do with all those glistening red pits? I don't know about you, but they look way too pretty to put on the compost heap. I'm a sucker for using the "garbage" end of a project. I just can't throw something out unless I'm sure there's no other use for it. Last year I made Noyaux, with apricot pits. I threw some cherry pits in, as well. Cherry pits are actually often used to make almond extract, so this may be what my liqueur will end up being. With all these pits, I decided to cover them in brandy and wait a few weeks for cherry pit liqueur. That name is almost as appetizing as corn cob jelly, I know, but as they say, it is what it is.

No need for fancy stuff. I did four pounds in a half hour.
Please note that there is some debate on whether cherry pits, and other stone fruit pits, most notably apricot and peach, contain enough cyanide to hurt a person. I have researched it a bit and found that it's negligible enough for me. In some cases, there is support to the opposite, that apricot kernals in particular have cancer fighting potential. In any case, the way to avoid all this is to bake or boil your pits for a short while before you use them to flavor your jam or liqueur. You can go to my post on noyaux liqueur to get a few more details on this.

It's a "pitty" I have to wait so long to drink it!

36 comments:

  1. Sour cherries are my favorite, too! I managed to get some black cherries while in Ohio last week (we've not had cherries for a month!), and put the pits into Everclear. We'll see what happens with that. We were definitely on the same page about the pits!

    (Oh, and here's where I go on about the sour cherry jam I made: http://foodliteraturephilosophy.blogspot.com/2011/05/small-batch-sour-cherry-jam.html)

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  2. I made "bitter almond" extract last year with cherry pits. I boiled them and cracked them first, though. Maybe the extra work wasn't necessary. But the kernels inside smelled wonderful! I did the same with my greengage plum pits and used the kernels in a muslin bag to flavor greengage plum jam. Very delicious!

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  3. I am so sad I can't FIND sour cherries at all. All this talk of their loveliness. It's like quince for me last fall (I think I moaned about that here too!)

    Anyway, besides self-pity, I wanted to mention that Chez Panisse desserts (I think, it's definitely a chez panisse book) has a cherry pit ice cream recipe! And of course, Andrea of Family and Food made my two boys cherry pit pillows for tummyaches (traditional german remedy).

    Yay for cherries!

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  4. Zemmely - Cool! Let me know how yours comes out. I got to go to NJ and get some everclear one of these days. Thanks for sharing your jam recipe. Yum.

    Margy - Aren't they delightful? Putting pits or kernels in jam is always a good idea. But I never thought to do it with plums. Will try this year. And, just planted a greengage plum tree!

    Sara - Boo! I'm sorry about the sour cherry dearth. I do remember that quince frenzy, too! Love that ice cream recipe, and I recall those cherry pit pillows. So sweet!

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  5. Julia, I have just clicked to your post (on Punk Domestics) as soon as I saw "cherry pits". I adore using "garbage" and when one day I made the mandarin peel vodka it was the most exciting of all my liqueurs (and maybe even the best??).
    You will be surprised, but I have already seen somewhere fruit pit liqueurs recipes. Two days ago I started to prepare an apricot gin and found in one book an advice to throw several kernels in it (of course I did it).
    I totally agree with you: for me the real cherries are sour cherries. The sweet ones are bland and without character when compared to those. In certain countries (Germany, Hungary, Poland...) there exist a variety of sour cherries which is black and has an even deeper taste than the light red ones. I hope you will be able to taste those one day (I haven't for years and I crave them so much...).
    I love your blog and find the cherry pit liqueur idea so exciting, I think I'll try to buy sour cherries just to make it!
    Oh, I would have forgotten to add: I saw on a blog someone pitting cherries with a... chopstick!

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  6. Oh Julia? Which part of this bountiful earth do you live? What's your climate over there? It's always been my dream to have all these seasonal fruits and those others you've been featuring in my yard.

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  7. Sissi - Not surprised to find other pit liqueurs, some of them quite famous! When I was picking these cherries, another woman was picking nearby and she was from Romania, and was completely in love with sours. I asked her what she did with them, hoping for a good recipe and she said she just ate them. I think she was holding back, personally! ; ) Thanks so much for leaving such a nice comment, btw! Love your apricot gin, I'll be making it soon!

    Conrad - Wow! That's a good comment for spam!

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  8. Best of luck with the jam business, I can't wait to hear how it goes!

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  9. Thank you, Julia, for the answer! I am very happy you like my apricot gin recipe!
    (I am sure the Romanian woman didn't want to share her recipes... No one is able to eat more than ten raw sour cherries, well maybe 20...)

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  10. Oh, I'm so glad I found this post tonight! I'll be making cherry jam tomorrow and probably would've thrown out the pits, but this sounds like a much better idea. Thanks for posting.

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  11. Oh! You are good stuff. I need to get my rhubarb and strawberries caught-up this week.

    Cherries are a good while away.

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  12. My computer flipped out when I was trying to leave a comment yesterday but wanted to come back and say yum. I can't wait for cherries to come and give it a go! (I said more than that originally...but the short version is: Awesome!)

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  13. hi julia. I posted a comment. and you replied in this wise:
    "Conrad - Wow! That's a good comment for spam!"

    What do you mean? Have I clogged or "spammed" the comments page. Or was my comment nonsensical? Actually, it was more of a query and I was sincere in wanting to know what climate would be best to bring my family to live and do all those wonderful things such as jamming, preserving and preparing or "manufacturing" your own food from scratc (so to speak) like what you've been doing. I love your blog but now i live in i a tropical island where all those fruits and ingredients you have are could not be found. I'm sorry if it appears to be so. But do rest assured that it is not my intention. Thank you.

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  14. Samantha - Thank you! I often wonder if I should even mention it, because I'm not sure if it will ever happen!

    Sissi - Now I'm sure she didn't want to share her recipe!

    Amy - Yay! I hope it comes out great!

    Jane - That's good--now you can think about what you're going to do when they arrive!

    meg - I'll say it again: I hate blogger's comment format! A boozy thing like this for you is like honey to a bee! Am I right?

    Conrad - It was a lovely comment, so I apologize if I've offended you, but when you click on your name it takes me to an electronics site which made me think your comment was generated by spam. But, as I said, it was a good comment, so I was confused! I live in the Hudson Valley, old farming area in New York state north of NYC. I'll bet you have tons of things that I would love to have, but can't! The grass is always greener, right?
    Nonetheless, I do appreciate your reading and commenting on my blog. I hope you are not discouraged, and will come back often!

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  15. I stumbled across your post and had to comment! We have had a cherry tree in our yard for 4 years now and this is the first year I have been able to harvest it. (You can read that story here if you so desire :) http://nutsabtnature.blogspot.com/2011/06/protecting-our-fruit.html) It was supposed to be a Bing!! Anyway, after all our efforts to save our fruit, I picked the first red cherry last week just to find out it is sour, after all. So anti-climatic, to say the least. However, your enthusiasm for them has given me hope that I will come to love my sours, too! Thanks for the all the cool ideas...I'm off to make cherry pit liqueur!

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  16. Hi Kim! Thanks for commenting! I can't tell you how jealous I am of your tree. I think you will come to treasure it!! And that weeping cherry tree--how cool is that?

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  17. Julia, no harm done. I get loads and loads of good things from regularly visiting the blog that i could not even thank you enough. I'm not so internet savvy you know so when i was asked for a url, I just made up a "www.conrad.com". I've been meaning to post comments since the first time I accidentally came by this blog but I get stumped by my internet semi-illiteracy.

    It's true that the grass is greener.... You know what, when you were doing your series on jams and jellies last year (concurrent with Hitchhiking to Heaven), I got so enthusiastic with it that I did my own jam--- albeit using what we have over here. Guava was the fruit in season at that time and was plentiful in my yard then. So that's what i did! I made use of your methods and techniques and used guava instead. And the kids loved it. I thought of posting here what I did but my aforementioned shortcomings in using the internet made me thought better of it. Not to mention the shabbiness and the crudeness of my guava jam and methods because I don't have here the utensils and implements you have.

    The recent fruit in season were bananas and all I did with the many (as in MANY MANY MANY) bananas we had was sweeten them and try to eat them all and finish them off because there would be loads of ripe yellow bananas the next day.

    Alas, I had to go back to the city for work soon afterwards and left those bananas behind. In the meantime, I visit your blog, (borrow ideas) and plan what to do with the next fruit in season for the next vacation in the country. I'm blabbering. Thank you.

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  18. love using up "garbage" for things! thank you for this post. i'm making cherry jam tonight and now i have something to do with the pits!

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  19. Conrad, I for one love your enthusiasm as I am sure the rest of the readers love your comments as well. Using what you have available where you live is the hallmark of preserving. You go with those guavas and bananas. We don't have guavas in the Midwest where I am from and bananas cost quite a bit. So here it is strawberries, rhubarb and such...

    Julia, love the idea of cherry pit liqueur. I am going out and finding some sour cherries at the farmer market soon to try it. Should be lovely to use at Christmas time!

    Thanks, Julia, for all the wonderful ideas. Best of luck on the jam business!

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  20. Always love the comments on your blog but these were the BEST! You go Conrad, think Banana ketchup...yum.
    Everclear is a very good base for many liqueurs. I used it mainly for blackberry "eau de vie" when my friends scored some from Nevada. I'll never through away another pit!

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  21. Conrad - Guava jam sounds amazing. I hope you continue to come by and blabber. And thank you!

    Heather - Cool! Hope it comes out great!

    Joan - Right? Conrad has a good thing going! Thanks for coming by, and thank you for your wishes on the biz. I'll need it!

    Pat - I know, I love them too! Banana ketchup? You always have great ideas! Oh, the blackberries you must get. I'm jealous.

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  22. With 27 pints of sour cherries, I'm beyond pumped to finally give this recipe a try. Will let you know how it goes!

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  23. Please do Lindsay! Always like to hear what you are doing...

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  24. Please note that there is some debate on whether cherry pits, and other stone fruit pits, most notably apricot and peach, contain enough cyanide to hurt a person. I have researched it a bit and found that it's negligible enough for me.

    ARe you sure??

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  25. Anon - For me, yes, I am sure. It takes 72 pits to be over the limit of safety. Considering that my pits are soaked in alcohol and that I usually use them to flavor something in the amount of an ounce or two, I don't see any danger in it. If I were to drink the whole bottle, well, then yes, but then that would be a problem in and of itself! There's also a whole school of thought that believes there is major benefit in the kernels, mostly of apricots.

    So, again, I say: it's really personal and that's why I am not telling anyone that this is perfectly safe. I am saying: please make your own judgement on it. I've made mine.

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  26. Now I know what to do with my pits. I just pitted 2 lbs of cherries to make Marzipan-stuffed chocolate-covered cherries. How funny that the pits I removed are used to make the flavoring in the Marzipan! Thanks for the wonderful information. Looking forward to trying this, just need to get some good brandy. Remember Irma Bombeck?

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  27. Anon II - Thanks for visiting! Yes, I do remember Irma, and life is a bowl of cherries. But life would even be better if they were marzipan-stuffed and chocolate-covered. That sounds SO incredible. I don't think I've ever even seen that sold, but I wish I could buy it!

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  28. Hi,
    This is indeed a fantastic resource. Thank you for making this publicly available.

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  29. Thank you for sharing this fine piece. Very interesting ideas! (as always, btw)

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  30. So I sit here staring at the cherry pits in a mason jar covered in Brandy. lol Stupid question, but now what? Do I store it any specific way or shake it every week or just let it be?

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    1. Vicki - Not a stupid question at all! Keep it cool and dark, in a cupboard or liquor cabinet, if you have one, or in the basement. You could shake it every other day, but I just let it be for about a month. Thanks for stopping in!

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  31. Making a batch of cherry butter and the pits are begging to be turned into liqueur. Thoughts on using bourbon instead of brandy?

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    Replies
    1. My thought: excellent! I can't imagine that duo doing any wrong!

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    2. Great minds :) Thanks for the reply Julia - and the inspiration of course!

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