Life is 20 jars of alcohol-infused cherries

One of my Dad’s stories from when he was in college in the mid 1950’s was that he and a couple of his buddies lived in the basement of a house.  They got a good break on rent because their landlady, who lived upstairs, would serve dinners and banquets in the main level of the house, and would hire her basement renters to serve at the dinners and help clean up afterwards.

Of course, being enterprising young college guys, that same year they also tried their hand at brewing beer.  One day, they were in the middle of serving a nice formal banquet, and all of a sudden they started hearing the crash of breaking glass…. yep, the beer bottles in the basement were exploding!  I don’t remember if he said whether they got evicted, I’m sure the landlady was NOT happy about the noise interrupting the nice banquet, or the mess that ensued!

In the 1970’s when I was growing up, our family spent a week or so around the Fourth of July every year picking cherries.  The lot where my dad’s office building was had a few fruit trees and the landlord agreed that my dad could have the fruit if he took care of the lot, mowed the weeds, sprayed the trees, etc. So we’d pick cherries, apples, pears, take them home, and spend days in front of the kitchen sink washing the fruit, pitting cherries, peeling and slicing apples and pears.  We griped about it, but it was worth it.  Most of the fruit ended up in the freezer and my mom makes THE BEST cherry and apple pies you’ll ever eat!

Fast forward to my adult life, we planted a cherry, apple and plum trees when we moved into this house, and I’ve done my share of picking fruit and freezing it.  One of my very earliest memories is begging for a bite of my dad’s cherry pie.  I don’t think I was even two years old yet.  And I still LOVE cherry pie, cherry Coke, anything cherry that’s slightly tart, slightly sweet.  Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia is the only real ice cream flavor on the planet as far as I’m concerned.  Yes…. ice cream, cherries…. I *am* my father’s daughter!

A few years ago, a quilting friend of mine introduced me to the concept of cherry Bounce.

Now, my dad never, to my knowledge, ever made Bounce.  He loves Cherry Coke as much as I do, and we used to add cherry syrup to Coke because we liked it so much better than the regular Cherry Coke or Cherry Pepsi.  But he never brewed any Bounce; maybe he liked his cherry pie too much to use the cherries for something else.

The basic concept of Bounce is to fill a jar with fruit (including seeds or pits).  Add sugar
to the jar (1 cup per quart), and then add your liquor of choice (I like brandy, we’ve also
used gin, vodka, and Southern Comfort with good success).  Seal the jar, and after a week, turn it upside down (that’s the “bounce”).  Repeat every week until the sugar is all dissolved, then it’s all been converted to alcohol and the liquid is ready to drink and can be drained off.

Obviously, you have to be over 21 to do this…. 🙂

I like to save the cherries, pit them, cook ’em up and thicken them, and serve them over ice
cream (that way the kiddos can have some too).

For the past few years I’ve made cherry bounce from the “pie cherries” on our tree, we’ve enjoyed drinking it and my eldest son has inherited the cherry loving gene.  However, my poor cherry tree is over 25 years old and hasn’t put out many cherries lately….

So this year I decided I’d go all out and order cherries from a local fruit stand.  I found out
that the “pie cherries” I like are the Montmorency varietal.  The fruit stand sells them by the bucketful, and, you can order them unpitted (for brewing) or pitted (for pies).

Imagine that.  I don’t have to worry about the birds getting the cherries, I don’t have to pick them and thus donate to the mosquito blood bank every day for a week, and, best of all, I don’t have to stand in front of my kitchen sink washing and pitting them for hours at a time and then wondering how the heck I’m going to get the cherry juice stains out of my favorite Star Trek T-shirt!

I ordered a 27 pound bucket of pitted cherries, those ended up in eighteen 1-quart containers in our deep freeze.  That’s about a pie every 3 weeks or so until next year.  Yeah, that’s about right…..

I also ordered three buckets of unpitted cherries for making Bounce, figuring I’d get Christmas all taken care of.  I quickly realized that my son hasn’t returned all of the quart jars that I’d delivered the previous years’ brews in, so I ended up getting some half gallon Mason jars.  And, that’s where the fun begins….

I filled twenty half-gallon jars with cherries, then started adding sugar.  I asked Jon to go
get sugar, he brought home a ten pound bag.  I used all that, and went out and bought another ten pound bag which also got used up.  At that point, Jon complained because there was no sugar in the house for his coffee!  Back to the store…. We’re now halfway through a fifteen pound bag of sugar, but I think that (finally) we’re good for a while!

My liquor of choice is brandy so that’s what I put in most of the jars.  Ran out of that, so I bought another jar of brandy, and a bottle of Southern Comfort because that’s what the lady at the fruit stand got drunk on with cherry Bounce last New Year’s (she said it was really good but really wicked)…

I’m out of brandy and out of Southern Comfort but at least all my cherries are finally bathing nicely.  Here’s one of the half gallon jars just after I sealed it up:
2014-07-30 22.53.19
So, I got my twenty jars all stored in cardboard flats on the floor of my pantry.  A couple of
days later, I heard a couple of “pings” from that general corner of the kitchen…. YES!  We
have fermentation, the lids are popping, life is good!

A couple of hours later, I heard a POP! and then a HISS…. uh oh.  I looked down at the
bottom of the pantry and saw that the cardboard flats were completely sodden with red syrupy goo.  There was so much fermentation that the lids on those Mason jars had completely distorted, the rings around them couldn’t hold the seal and the liquid was oozing out.  And, not only was the mess covering the pantry floor, when I carried those jars, two at a time, across the kitchen to the counter, they dripped all the way.  Even the bottoms of my Crocs were no longer blue…

I spent the next three hours opening all the jars, bleeding off some of the extra liquid, and
sealing them back up with new lids.  Of course I saved all the extra liquid, it’s got alcohol
and sugar and will ferment up just fine!  I emptied all the quilting fabric out of a couple of
large Rubbermaid containers and put the jars in them before putting everything back in the pantry (see below), just in case we have more leaks.  The two large green jars in the top container have the extra liquid that I saved.

2014-07-30 15.34.17
The good news?  My kitchen floor is now cleaner than it’s been in months.  And, although I am my father’s daughter, at least I didn’t have to deal with exploding bottles!

And, a week later, here’s an update.  It was time to “bounce” the jars.  I did have a few more leaks so I took everything out again and cleaned up the plastic bins.  Here’s a picture of all the jars upside down on my kitchen counter, you can see the sugar in the bottom of the jars.  The jars on the left that are right side up contain more of the liquid that I removed from the leaky jars.

2014-08-03 11.35.10

Yes, Dad, the King genes are alive and well!

Now I have to figure out what quilts to make from all the fabric that I emptied out of those Rubbermaid bins…..

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One Response to Life is 20 jars of alcohol-infused cherries

  1. Kathy Bonafede says:

    I am living vicariously through this story…. that’s a lot of work, Lori!!!

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