Tag Archives: cherry

Bar Stool Fridays – Bourbon Obsession

Should I be worried?

In honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month, I thought I’d share part of our collection of bourbon bottles.

My husband and I have long enjoyed bourbon, but since we returned from Kentucky, my husband has really ramped up his purchases.  Don’t misunderstand.  I certainly reap the benefits of his buying habits, but….I wonder if we should be plotting our roadtrips around shops that stock hard-to-find bottles of bourbon?  Or should a trip to the farmers’ market have to paired with a trip to a liquor store?  Is it bad that we cannot drive or walk by a sign that reads “spirits” without stopping to search for dusty bottles?

Hmmm…let me think about that while I sip this Manhattan.

Makes 1 drink

2 ounces premium bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
splash of Maraschino liqueur or juice from jar of Maraschino cherries
Maraschino cherry for garnish

Combine bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters in an ice-filled shaker.  Strain into glass.  I prefer to drink it with ice.  Garnish with cherry and add a splash of liquid from jar.

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I Cannot Tell A Lie. I Like Cherries in My Booze

As regular readers of this blog know, my husband and I really enjoy bourbon.  And, while it is certainly pleasurable served neat, we also imbibe a cocktail or two.  Or so.

Our drink of choice the past few months has been the Manhattan.  Simply, it is the melding of bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a lovely Maraschino cherry.  My brother makes an excellent version – shaken, not stirred – just the way I like it.  Recent visits to a couple of upscale cocktails bars, though, gave us a sample of some small batch Maraschino cherries.  They tasted dramatically different than they bright red versions we’ve always had.  And, with that another mission was conceived…

First, to get the fruit.  Luckily, tart cherries grow locally, and I harvest some myself every year.

My husband calls this shot, “A cook walks into a tree…”

Yeah, that is me in there…I’m crawling towards the inside of the tree to grab the ripest cherries.  What’s a few scratches and hair tangles when it comes to good food, right?

We took our haul home and now, for the preservation part…the cherries are steeped in alcohol.  Maraschino liqueur is traditional, but folks use brandy, rum, bourbon, and other good-tasting stuff, too.  I found a decently priced bottle of Maraschino liqueur from Croatia, and decided that was the way to go.

Finally, for the technique.  My husband and I did a bit of research and weren’t entirely convinced on a specific method or process.  Stemmed and pitted or no?  Hot or cold?  Additions of sugar or lemon?  We elected to experiment and create two jars.

We left the cherries intact – stems, pits, the whole shebang.  We simmered the alcohol for one jar, and left the other cool.  We didn’t add sugar or lemon – just cherries and alcohol.  Finally, one jar was just Maraschino liqueur and the other was an even mix of Knob Creek bourbon and the liqueur.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries
Makes 1 pint

1 pint tart or sour cherries (I recommend fresh, but the season is short and limited, so in a pinch go with frozen, jarred get too mushy)
1 cup alcohol (Maraschino liqueur or other lovely spirit)
pint-sized jar with sealable lid

I recommend preparing your jar and its lid by submerging in boiling water for about 10 minutes before using.  Fill your prepared jars with washed cherries.  You decide if you want stems and/or pits.

My pickling experiences have taught me that using cold materials will leave your end product crisper.  If you want a crisper biting cherry, leave your alcohol and fruit cold or room temperature.  Just put the cherries in the jar and pour the spirits over them.  Seal and refrigerate.

If you want to rush the maceration, bring liqueur to a simmer in a saucepan on stovetop.  Pour over cherries, let mixture cool,  and seal jar.

Store jar in refrigerator.  Wait at least two days before using.

Makes 1 drink

2 oz bourbon
just shy 1 oz sweet vermouth
couple dashes bitters (I like Angostura, Mr. Cook in a Bar likes Fee’s Orange)
Maraschino cherry

Add all liquid to ice-filled shaker.  Strain or serve on the rocks.  Garnish with cherry.

Here’s a comparison between the homemade (bookends) and store-bought versions of Maraschino cherries…

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My husband and I were invited to dinner by my husband’s friend Tony this week.  He grilled up some steaks while we played with his two-year-old daughter.  What a cutie!

I thought it was the perfect occasion to make the cherry pie I’d been contemplating.  Plus, it would use the rest of the tart cherries.  I love to make pie, but it is a bit much to make for just my husband and myself.  It is a better dessert to share.  However, you don’t want too many people to share it with because then you don’t have any pie to eat the next day or later that night!

It took me a while to feel like I mastered pie crust. I tried several different recipes and techniques and it took me a while to be satisfied.  I think a crust that uses both butter and shortening is key.   I think the flavor of a butter crust is best, but the shortening makes it a little more forgiving and easier to work with.

You also need to practice.  Don’t expect your crust to come out perfectly the first time…it takes time to get the feel of rolling it out.  It is worth it, though, and it isn’t bad to have to eat pie regularly.  We certainly enjoy it!

Cherry Pie
Makes one 9 1/2 inch deep dish, double-crust pie
For crust:
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup Crisco
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water
I cube the butter right out of the refrigerator and place in a bowl with Crisco and flour. I then place this bowl in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes. It is important to keep the ingredients and dough cold.  Then, I use my pastry cutter to blend until it is consistency of pea-sized crumbs.

Drizzle on the ice water and stir with a fork until crumbs are moistened and it is starting to clump together.

Press the dough into a ball and divide into two pieces, one slightly smaller than the other (that will be top pie crust). Flatten into disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
For filling:
7 cups of pitted tart cherries
1 1/2 – 2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and let it sit for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar and cornstarch.  If it is super juicy, you may want to add just a touch more sugar and cornstarch.

When ready to create pie, roll out dough on floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick and around 13 inches diameter. This is the bottom pie crust that goes into the pie pan.  Place this in the bottom of your 9 1/2 inch deep-dish pie pan.

Pour the cherry filling into the crust.  Roll out the second round of pie dough now.  You can roll it into a circle a little smaller in diameter than the last one in order to cover the pie completely.  Or, you can roll it out into a rectangle and cut strips to weave into a lattice shape.  Or, you can roll it out in a rough shape and use cookie cutters to cut shapes and lay on top of the fruit.  Or, a combination there of…

I used a star cookie cutter to make shapes to lay on top of the cherries this time.  It felt more festive to me.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.  You need to be careful of leakage.  These cherries were very juicy and the pie started oozing juice over the edges of the pan.  I placed the pie pan on top of a cookie sheet to catch the leaking juice and to save me cleaning the oven.  It can still cause some smoke as the sugar burns, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Tart and Tasty Breakfast Treat

So…I have lots of tart cherries left from my picking excursion this weekend.  Don’t worry…I’m gonna make a pie, but that still leaves us with plenty.  I spent more than an hour yesterday pitting several pounds of cherries.

Since we killed the scones I made for our cherry jam so quickly, I decided to make another cherry breakfast treat.  My fallback plan for breakfast is always muffins.  I found a very easy recipe from a Michigan bakery that I modified for my purposes.  And, if I may say…they are delicious.

Tart Cherry Muffins
Makes 16 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 Tbsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup oil
1 1/4 cup milk
1 1/3 cup cherries, stemmed, pitted, and chopped

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with paper cups.

I mixed dry ingredients together first.

Then, I added the wet ingredients and mixed well.

I added the cherries last.

I poured them into the lined muffins tins and topped them with the crumb topping.

To make the crumb topping, cut the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture resembles small pebbles.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until your tester comes out clean.

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Cherries Get Me Out of a Jam

I went cherry picking this weekend.  I love picking fruit, but I learned that I really should not do this alone.  When I am by myself I am not capable of ignoring any rude, insensitive behavior from strangers.  I need the calming influence of other people who can distract me, or at least remind me not to embarrass myself.  I narrowly avoided an incident among the cherry trees this weekend.  I will spare you the dirty details, but a group of rude strangers almost made me lose an entire bucket of tart cherries.  If you’ve ever picked cherries, you know they aren’t the easiest fruit in the world to pull off a tree and fill up a bucket.

I decided to vacate the fields and head home knowing my husband and our kitchen could make me feel better.  Not so fast, missy…your gas tank is on empty.  So, I pull into a nice gas station (calm down, it wasn’t BP), and attempt to release the fuel door.  Haha!  Foiled again….it is broken and won’t release.   Fortunately, it was a service station and two mechanics walked out to help me.  They finally got the gas tank open, but now the trunk won’t close.  After about half an hour, we finally finagle it closed and I’m on my way.  Then, traffic….sigh.

I was pretty cranky when I finally got home.  I admit that one of my many faults is that I have trouble shaking things off, just ask my husband, but I felt particularly pushed that day.  I had lost most of my enthusiasm for cooking with my freshly picked fruit.  Luckily, my husband had not, and he cajoled me into the kitchen to start making cherry jam.  Oh my gosh, I am sooooo grateful I did.

We did an awesome job with this jam.  It is some of the best jam I have ever eaten.  We lick the knife after spreading it on scones.  Tasting this, all my negative feelings disappeared and I was really happy that I had picked tart cherries.  And, I’m pretty confident the rude strangers aren’t eating something as good as this with their cherries.

Tart Cherry Jam
Makes about three 8-oz (half pint) jars

3 cups fresh tart cherries
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Wash the cherries thoroughly.

Remove the stems and pits.  We used our OXO Good Grips cherry pitter, which works very nicely.


You can also improvise a cherry pitter and use a wooden skewer, drinking straw, or pastry tip.

I roughly chopped the cherries so that it would not just be whole cherries suspended in jelly.  I was careful to save the juice as I chopped and added it all to the pot.

These cherries were very juicy so there was plenty of liquid with the fruit when I turned on the heat to medium high.  I added the lemon juice and sugar and kept stirring as the sugar dissolved.

Bring to boil and turn down the heat to medium or medium low, continue to stir to prevent sticking.  The  jam will thicken and bubble, keep stirring.

Now to test for doneness.  For the last batch of jam, we used the freezer test.  We dribbled a bit of the cooking jam on a plate and put it in the freezer for a minute, then swiped the puddle with our finger to see if the liquid stayed separate.  This method led to some minor disagreement between my husband and myself, so we decided to use a candy thermometer this time.

It took about 15 minutes of cooking and stirring until the mixture registered 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Pour the jam into hot, sterilized jars and seal.  Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

As the jars cool down, you should hear a pinging noise as the lids pop from a vacuum forming.  After a couple of hours, press down on the center of each lid.  There should be no flex.  If the lid flexes, you will need to repeat the boiling water bath process to reach a vacuum seal.

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