My Cherished Canadian Recipe: Evans Sour Cherries in Brandy

The Canadian Food Experience Project (September)

Use your Evans cherries or other sour cherries to make luscious brandied cherries – perfect for gifting to hosts or friends at Christmas time, or for a grown-up treat all year round.

Evans sour cherries in brandy

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7, 2013. As we, the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us. This month’s topic is:

My Cherished Canadian Recipe: Evans Cherries in Brandy

 

 

Evans cherry brandy; cherries on tree

The cherries are ripe! The cherries are ripe!

The Evans cherry boughs are hanging heavy with their ruby jewels, and they truly are a Canadian treasure. It is such a thrill to see those fruits ripening and to walk out and pick a handful of the tart, juicy cherries to munch on.

Cherries are relatively new to the Canadian prairies – the Evans has only been available to the public since about 1996. It was developed in practically our own back yard. Alberta horticulturist, Dr. Ieuan Evans, discovered an unknown strain of sour cherry trees growing in an old orchard northeast of Edmonton where they had been producing cherries since 1923. He propogated the suckers and distributed them everywhere, and within years, the Evans cherry exploded in popularity, now being grown all over Canada and into the United States and other cold climate countries in the world. The trees reach 10 to 15 feet tall and are easy to grow. They are reliable producers of heavy sour cherry crops, with large juicy cherries almost an inch across.

Evans cherry brandy; bowl of cherries

We have three Evans cherry trees in our yard, and in late spring they are a site to behold – masses of fluffy white blossoms make the trees look like big lacy snowballs. Throughout the summer the trees are glossy green, and then by late summer they hang heavy with the shiny red cherries. If you leave the cherries on the trees longer, they get even sweeter. They’re the best in early September. Picking the cherries is a joy, as they hang in large bunches that fill your hands. Pails fill up quickly. This year our crop was less than in some years (and a bit hail-scarred, too), but the cherries were still enchanting – like trees out of a storybook. In the fall the leaves turn a lovely yellowy-orange.

Evans cherry brandy; Andreas and Albert picking cherries

Every year I make gallons of juice concentrate with the fruits – cooking the cherries with the pits lends a subtle spicy almond flavour that causes people to sip, puzzle, and smile as they taste the juice. It’s such an complex flavour.

Some years I do the tedious and messy business of pitting the cherries and freezing them for winter compotes and toppings. Sometimes I make preserves or jam or jelly or sauces. Often I make a sour cherry cordial or a shrub (a vinegar-based concentrate). But I always fill at least 4 or 5 gallon jars with cherries, brandy and sugar to set aside into the basement for a few months. In the dark, while no one’s peeking, something special happens.

Evans cherry brandy; ready for the brandy

Evans cherry brandy; tipping the jars

The brandy and sugar work magic on the cherries to create sweet little pearls of flavour. The cherry flavour intensifies and the almond flavour of the pits is even more pronounced than in the juice. The neon red colour of the cherries deepens to become a rich burgundy, and the flesh condenses and firms up beautifully. At Christmas time I bring up the gallons and re-bottle them into smaller jars to give to all our friends for a little taste of summer cheer.

The brandied cherries themselves are wonderful spooned over ice-cream or cheesecake or other desserts with a drizzle of the syrupy cherry brandy. And the brandy is delectable to sip on its own. Sometimes after a large meal, I just give everyone a fancy little liqueur glass with 6 or 7 cherries and a good splosh of the brandy poured over. I stick in a fancy pick to spear the cherries and everyone finishes with a nightcap shooter of the brandy. Simple heaven.

Evans cherry brandy; cherries in brandy in fancy glasses

I remember, when I was a young girl, my Opa often buying miniature boot-shaped liqueur glasses filled with a few sour cherries in brandy, at the German delicatessen. He would enjoy them as a treat and sometimes let us grandchildren have a tiny lick of the syrup. I still had one of those little boot-shaped glasses until a few years ago, though now it has disappeared. But no mind, these brandied cherries still remind me of that grown-up treat from childhood. And I have gallons of the cherries to play with.

Now that we have our very own Canadian prairie cherries, we can indulge in all kinds of cherry shenanigans.

This recipe really is a treasured Canadian recipe because it is made with a true Canadian fruit – the Evans cherry – and treasured in our family because it’s a Christmas tradition we enjoy all year round.

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Kitchen Frau Notes: for this recipe, there is no need to buy ‘good’ brandy. I always choose the cheapest bottles of brandy I can find in the liquor store. The cherries have such a wonderful intense flavour, that the brandy flavour is totally transformed.

I make this in glass gallon jars, but I think it would work just as easily in quart-sized canning jars. Just use one cup of sugar per quart, and fill up to the top with brandy.

If you can’t find gallon glass jars, buy a gallon jar of pickles at Costco and re-bottle the pickles into quart jars to store in the fridge and use later. Rinse out the big jar, and it’s ready to go!

 

Evans cherry brandy; filling the jars

Sour Cherries in Brandy

  • a generous gallon (4 litres) of fresh Evans sour cherries
  • 4 cups (800gms) sugar
  • 1 bottle (750ml) brandy

Rinse the cherries and pick them over to remove any with blemishes. Drain the cherries well.

Pack a clean glass gallon jar about ¼ full of cherries. Pour on 1 cup (200gms) of the sugar. Repeat with more cherries and sugar until all the sugar is used up and the jar is full to the top with cherries.

Pour over the bottle of brandy. There will be some settling and the brandy won’t come quite to the top of the jar. Add more cherries, pushing them gently down into the brandy, until the brandy level rises to about ½ inch (1cm) from the top of the jar and covers the cherries.

Cover the jar with a piece of plastic wrap and screw on the lid as tightly as you can.

Tip the jar upside-down onto a small plate (in case there are any leaks). After a few hours tip the jar right-side-up again. Continue turning the jar several times a day until the sugar has all disolved. This will take 3 or 4 days.

Set the jar in the sink and rinse off any dried-on sugar syrup leaks that might have dribbled down the outsides of the jar. Dry the jar and set it in a cool dark spot to steep for at least a month and up to 6 months. (The waiting is the hard part!) I set it on the cool cement basement floor in a dark corner.

After a month it’s ready to rebottle – perfect for Christmas giving or fall sipping. Just divide the cherries and brandy (portioning them out so there’s the same ratio of cherries to brandy in each jar) into smaller jars, screw them tightly shut (no need to heat seal them – that would destroy the alcohol content), wipe any sticky drips off the outside, add a nice label, and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use or give away.

Some people like to strain out the cherries and just drink the brandy, but I think the cherries are the best part! (A friend of mine strains the cherries out and keeps them in the freezer for snacking, and serves the cherry brandy separately.) I like to keep the cherries in the brandy to serve over ice cream or cake. I often serve a small glass with the brandy and 5 or 6 cherries in it, along with a decorative pick, as an after-dinner treat when we’ve had dinner guests. It’s a lovely end to a special meal.

The brandied cherries are good for at least a year – if they last that long.

Makes one gallon of brandied cherries.

Guten Appetit!

 

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Use your Evans cherry harvest to make these delicious Sour Cherries in Brandy

 You might also like:

How to Pit Evans Cherries

Sour Cherry Pie to Make Billy Boy Happy 

No-Bake Sour Cherry Coconut Bars

Apricot and Evans Sour Cherry Crisp

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View past Canadian Food Experience Project entries here:

June, 2013: My First Authentic Canadian Food Memory: Buttery Sauteed Mushrooms with Spruce Tips and Chives

July, 2103: A Regional Canadian Food: Saskatoon Roll or Saskatoon Cobbler and How to Freeze Saskatoon Berries

August, 2013:  A Canadian Food Hero in Northern Alberta, and Pickled Beets and Creamed Vegetables

  Evans cherry brandy; one bright cherry

This entry was posted in Canadian Food, Canning & Preserving, Desserts, Puddings & Such, Drinks, Fruit, Gardening and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to My Cherished Canadian Recipe: Evans Sour Cherries in Brandy

  1. Sabine Macleod says:

    Hi
    Sounds absolutely delicious.Cant wait to have some when we play cards!
    Hugs

  2. Vivian says:

    What memories your post brought back. I got a small potted tree from Ieuan via a friend and lily grower, Marv Joslin. The tree is now 6′ high and would have had fruit this year except for the nasty weather earlier in spring…the buds were blown off…I saw them one day and the next they were gone!! Maybe next year! I got several pounds of fruit from a friend and did make some marvelous jelly. Devine. Thanks for the ideas for further use…especially the cordial.

    Vivian

  3. Margaret says:

    The trees do take a few years to come to their full harvesting production potential, but it’s worth the wait. Here’s hoping for a bountiful cherry harvest for you next year!

  4. I love cherries. We used to have a cherry tree and believe it or not, I never thought of making them this way. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Margaret says:

      Thank you. The only problem with making them this way is that if you want to give them as gifts, you need to make enough for yourself too, or else you won’t want to share.

  5. bellini says:

    I can see that these cherries would not last a year.

    • Margaret says:

      You’re right. I have to sheepishly admit that they don’t ever last that long in our house. The only reason I know they can is that one year I overlooked a jar that got hidden behind some boxes in our basement and I discovered it after a year and the cherries were still great. That was a great find!

  6. Margaret,
    I do exactly the same thing – but only one cup of sugar per liter of vodka – dissolving it in the vodka first, then pour it over to cover the berries and leave in the dark until Christmas… I MUST try this recipe next year!
    And… will you please post your making juice recipe next year? I would love to see a step by step photo instruction on that one…
    YUM!
    :)
    Valerie

    • Margaret says:

      Yours sounds a whole lot healthier with less sugar (I will have to try cutting down a bit). Sounds like we will both be enjoying a very merry ‘cherry’ Christmas! I make my juice with a steam juicer, but have also made it in a pot with water, too. Will definitely post next year. There was still a handful of cherries on my trees that my mom, who’s visiting, discovered were even sweeter after the frost and she nibbled them all up. I’ll have to try leaving a few more next year, too.

  7. Redawna says:

    Wow!!! I am not sure why I have never had Evans cherries before? It will be my goal next summer to see if I can find some. Of all the recipes posted since the beginning of The Canadian Food Experience Project this one intrigues me the most. I have to try it. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  8. Margaret says:

    It`s still always a thrill for me, too, to see the trees loaded with cherries – not something that`s normally associated with the prairies. Hope you find those cherries and get to indulge in the fresh ones and the decadent brandied version, too! Cheers!

  9. Cath says:

    Sounds like fun!

  10. JoAnn says:

    Cant wait to try these soon. Can we break the recipe down to make into smaller jam jars?

    • Margaret says:

      I have to admit – they are delectable and I need to keep “checking” them while they are aging! I sometimes make quarts of the cherries using 1 cup of sugar per quart and whatever amount of brandy needed to fill the jar. Using those same ratios (1/2 cup sugar per pint and 1/4 cup sugar per half-pint), I can’t see why it wouldn’t work in smaller jars, too. Have fun with them!

  11. Susan McKay says:

    Do you have to process them at all when you decant to smaller jars as gifts?

    • Margaret says:

      No, I don’t heat process them at all. I just divide them out among clean smaller jars and screw the lid shut. I find they keep well in a cool dark place for months, but if I have room in the fridge, they do keep their colour a bit better if refrigerated. Still taste just as good, though :)

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