Homemade Gift Idea: Brandied Cherries

I’m a big fan of the homemade gifts. Last year I gave my boyfriend’s mom a crocheted fish-shaped pot holder (she acted like she loved it!) and the other three members of Will’s family personalized crocheted beer cozies. That raised a lot of eyebrows, and I imagine they haven’t gotten much use this past year, but my heart was in the right place. Even they would admit that!

This year Will and I have been inspired by our new found love of all thing cocktails, my new interest in canning, and our desire to keep presents as inexpensive as possible. This year, our family is receiving one of our first batch of brandied cherries.

Our love affair with Maraschino cherries started last year when we learned that the red swollen sugary cherries that we grew up with in our Shirley Temples are not the traditional Maraschino cherries. No, Maraschino cherries are cherries that are soaked in Maraschino liquor, an Italian aperitif flavored with the ground seeds of cherries from Marasca. The ones we have been served are soaked in tons of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and red dye. During the high tide of the Temperance movement, anti-alcohol enthusiasts campaigned to have the original, liquor-soaked cherries banned. They won, and ever since the original cherries have been lost to American culture. We managed to find a bottle at a high-end grocery store near our house, and fell in love.

But at a price tag of $16 a bottle, we instantly recognized the need to find a more affordable solution. Why not make them ourselves?

We followed this recipe from the Gourmet Foodie Blog. Or, rather, we tried to. Embarking on this journey in December meant that we didn’t have access to affordable fresh cherries, and had to use dried ones. It also meant that even though the cherries would be presented on Christmas, they wouldn’t be ready for consumption until March. But they’ll be better for all that time spent steeping in yummy brandy and Maraschino.

Our first try yielded disappointing results.

Our first time we canned with our friends Anthony and Nicole. Without the proper equipment and any previous experience, we unfortunately sealed the jars (accomplished by boiling the jars for 12 minutes, a process that allows the lid to create a food-safe seal with the jar) on their side. In three out of four, the brandy escaped during the sealing process, and we were left with nothing but cherries and sugar in a sealed jar. But at least we got the seals correctly created. Apparently, that can be a challenge when canning.

A couple weeks later we tried again. This time we knew not to let the jars fall on their sides during the boiling process.

The resulting jars of brandied cherries looked good, but had a layer of sugar that did not mix with the brandy. Next time, we will use simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water).

Happy with these results (and out of cherries and jars!) I finished the gift off with a scrap of my torn skinny jeans and our Lushes in Love label. Not only are these a great Christmas gift, but they are also a celebration of our new cocktail blog, Lushes in Love. When we get back from Christmas we’re going to populate that site with content and go live!

I estimate that each jar cost us a mere $3 in materials, despite our using a dash of the expensive Maraschino liquor and a high end brandy. We surmised that all you need is a dash of Maraschino liquor to make the entire batch have its delicious taste. We have noticed that any drink we make with Maraschino liquor tastes just like Maraschino liquor.

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