Drunken cherries - make your own cherry brandy

Preserving cherries for later, for generations to come.

"My top way of eating cherries is a bowl of cherries. If good, they need no adornment, other than perhaps a glass of pink champagne."
Fergus Henderson.

Before the second world war there were about 40 000 acres of cherry orchards in Britain. These were mainly in Kent, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.
The past 50 years however 90 % of these cherry orchards have disappeared.
The labour was very intensive as the trees were very high, too high to cover the crop from the birds. I were mostly women who harvested the cherries on high ladders with baskets tied to their waists.  

To tackle this problem nowadays and to revive cherry growing, dwarf plants are planted to replace the towering trees. The dwarf trees are covered with netting so the birds can't steal the crop and the orchard has a maximum yield.


The people from Food Lovers Britain have started 'CherryAid', a campaign to point out to the supermarkets and consumers that the British cherry needs our attention and preservation. Since the campaign started most of Britain's biggest supermarkets like M&S and Tesco are selling British cherries and Waitrose has stated that imported cherries will be phased out completely for the five week the British cherry season.
So it's fair to say, British cherries are on their way of being saved for future generations.

Britain however is not the only country in danger of loosing their native fruit, in Belgium you can't even get Belgian cherries in the supermarket. You find them rarely at the market. A lot of cherry growers in Belgium leave their crop rot on the trees because it's too expensive to pick them for the price they will get for them. Such a shame that the most famous 'Schaerbeekse cherry' has been lost for ever, this was the variety used for the typical Belgian cherry beer. Instead of finding another Belgian cherry, most of the breweries choose to import the cherries from Poland. Only a small number of cherries used for the beer today are Belgian. 

Most of you will try and buy 'local' or British cherries, I'm sure.
I love how the cherry season transforms the roads of Kent with cherry signs and little stalls packed with punnets of cherries. The sellers sitting there, usually seeking shelter from wind and rain under a bright umbrella, reading a book.

Below some interesting links to explore:
Brogdale farm has an annual Cherry festival celebrating the British cherry and
Food Lovers Britain - 'CherryAid' a campaign to put British cherries back on the map.

Great British Food Revival Cherries and Walnuts
Rent a cherry tree

Cherries come in two types: sweet and sour. My mum and I used to make this cherry brandy and the recipe is handed down by my grandmother. For cherry brandy it's better to use the sour variety however you can use the sweet ones and slightly decrease the sugar you use. Or not, if you like it very sweet!

So what about you? What do you like to brew?

What do you need

cherries: 1kg
Eau de vie or Vodka: 1liter
sugar: 300 g
sterilised jars

• rinse the cherries well
• cut of the stalks leaving 1cm still on the cherry, that way the brandy will keep longer as 
the cherries stay nice and firm.
• layer the cherries with the sugar
• pour over the alcohol and close the jar
• put in a dark place at room temperature and shake every day for a week
• forget about the cherries until christmas or thanksgiving!

I have jars that date back to 1999, these cherries are very very strong!
Enjoy in a little glass or why not with a scoop of ice cream...

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Strawberry and Pimm's granita drink
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