The Brandied Berries

The bounty is bursting.

I get greedy when it comes to berries.

I end up buying whole flats of strawberries, cherries, raspberries and blueberries when they’re in season. It’s like I’m an addict – I justify spending the extra money for the good stuff, so that I can gorge myself during that small window of opportunity called berry season in Nova Scotia. But then of course, I lose my momentum and end up with rotting fruit in my fridge.

Or at least, I used to.

Behold, the boozy berry:


A couple years ago, I found a recipe in a cookbook for brandied oranges. But I had bought the cookbook in the summer, when oranges aren’t in season. So what do you do? Use what is in season.

Cherries.

I packed the cherries in mason jars, added a little sugar, and waited. And waited. Six months later I opened the jar during a snowstorm and by the end of the jar I didn’t care if I got snowed in for a week. I had discovered something miraculous: preserves worth preserving.

The fruit can be eaten or used as a garnish. But not all fruits are created equal, and not all fruits are tasty after being bathed in brandy.  Blueberries come to mind. But cherries are wickedly and wonderfully potent, while raspberries are without par.  You’ll believe me when you melt them into chocolate and use the ganache for a glaze. Trust me.

But this was just the beginning, the cherry on top of a very big and very boozy sundae. I soon began to put anything and everything in brandy: strawberries (good as part of a rumtopf – more on that later), dried mangoes (fantastic in vodka, less so in brandy), blueberries (don’t eat the berries. Just don’t. Just drink the booze), kaffir limes (vile) quinces (great for making minced meat) and raspberries, which, in my opinion, can kick the cherry off the top of the proverbial sundae.

I soon was told of the wonders of the rumtopf, or rum pot. A German classic of alcohol and seasonal fruits, Essentially, you take fruit, pack it in a jar, top it off with rum, then let it sit for a while. Take out the fruit as needed or desired, and top off with more fruit and alcohol. Soon enough you have a very complex and very delicious tipple. I decided to try it and made some of my own, but sticking with my favorite brandy. My first one was simple, blueberries, raspberries and cherries. If my love of the raspberry was to be beaten, it would be here. That is until I opened the second bottle, which contained currants, gooseberries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. The strawberries added a distinctive flavour and richness to the drink and the entire jar was finished off in an afternoon.

So if you’re wondering what to do with all those extra berries you bought, or are afraid that they’ll turn before you get to eat them, take my advice: give ‘em a drink.

Recipe:

This could not be simpler. All you need are mason jars with lids, sugar, brandy and seasonal, preferably local or organic soft fruits (i.e.- raspberries, blueberries, cherries).

Got it? Good.

For each mason jar, measure out 1/4 of the volume in sugar. So, one litre jar equals one cup of sugar.  Place the fruit inside the jar, sprinkling sugar as you go on top of the fruit.  Fill with brandy. Seal and put it away for 4-5 months, the longer the better.  Open it up when ready and drink the brandy!

Note: some fruits are more edible than others (see above).  Try and see what you like.  Also, some fruits may need more sugar than others.  Blood Oranges, for example, may need more sugar and/or longer maturation times due to the high acid content. Experiment.  See what works for you.

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