It’s that time of year to make the most delicious tasting cherry liqueur. There is only a short window of opportunity every year to purchase the small sour cherry and turn it into a smooth, sweet tasting treat. If you are lucky enough to have one of these trees and can harvest them yourself, you will find that you are fighting off the birds for the cherries, so I have learned to look in the local open markets for the already picked fruit and when you find someone selling them, do not hesitate because these cherries go fast! This year a kilo of visnja cost 10 kunas, or the equivalent of $1.80. So, since a kilo is 2.2 pounds you are paying only 81 cents per pound for someone else doing all the work of harvesting, cleaning, packing and bringing the fruit to market….what a deal!
So we bought three kilos of small sour cherries for a little over $5, and started the process……
First, you have to wash, stem and cull the bad fruit from the good. I do not use any cherries that have a mold growing on them , or which are overly soft as there is a tendency to find little white worms in them, which I personally do not wish to drink, although I don’t think it’s too different from the worm you find in some Tequila, however I am a little squeamish, so I prefer to make sure my cherries are very clean.
The next step is to make a slit in the body of the cherry, so that the sugar will be able to interact with the juice and fruit faster and ferment quicker in the glass jar you will use. I make sure I have clean jars ( they don’t have to be sterilized, just washed and dried well) and I have enough sugar for the amount of fruit I will be processing.
I had enough cherries to use two 2.5 liter glass jars, I ended up with six cups of fruit in each jar and used three cups of sugar per jar. The rule of thumb is one cup sugar to two cups fruit, so make sure you have enough room in your glass jar to accommodate that as well as leave room for the fermentation gasses which occurs when the sugar and the fruit interact together.
Now comes the alchemy part…..you need to find a warm sunny place to put your jars for three weeks so the sugar can melt and interact with the cherries. You also need to pay attention to the lids you use because if you tighten them too tight the chemical reaction can blow the lids off the jars. If they are too loose, the syrup can ooze out of the top and attract ants and flies ( if you are leaving your jars outside like I do). If you decide to keep your jars in the house, find a sunny window and place them there on a towel which can absorb any juices that may leak out during this three week period. You also must shake the contents once or twice a day to ensure that the sugar doesn’t sit on the bottom in a lump without interacting with the fruit. I usually shake the jars first thing in the AM and at night before I go inside for the last time.
One week in, and you can see that the sugar has melted and the cherries have released their liquid and are fermenting in the sunshine.
Okay, now we wait for another couple weeks and I will be back to give you Part Two!