Slow Sweet Sips

Yesterday, I woke in the middle of a dream about the cherry liqueur described by the protagonist Framboise in the book Five Quarters of the Orange *: eventually, the alcohol seeps through the drupe to penetrate the stone, drawing out the scent of almonds, she explains.

It's not surprising I'm dreaming of liqueur. The next season is already looming and the signs are everywhere: the blossoming balls of hydrangea, the bags of ume (Japanese apricots) in the supermarket, cherries getting cheaper (100 yen per 100 grams--a miracle!). It's the rainy season! This means two things: seriously soggy people and homemade ume shu--lumps of rock sugar and tart ume steeped in shochu--and maybe ume boshi if you're a fanatical Japanese Martha Stewart type. I tried making ume shu three years ago, but tragically, my husband's fear of the two little jars I have stashed at the back of the kitchen cabinet has infected me as well. Let's just say I wasn't terribly thorough in the sterilizing of those jars.

But that's old news. This year, my dreams are telling me to give cherries a go. I did a search on making cherry liqueur and I was rather disappointed when many of the recipes suggested piercing the cherries and/or crushing the cherry pits with a hammer to speed the process along. Such a no-nonsense approach ruins the appeal, which for me is the idea of whole unmarred cherries suspended in alcohol, the two initially trading colors--the alcohol staining red, the cherries bleaching white**; and finally after half a decade (or so), the natural and inexorable surrender of the seeds' perfume. What fun would there be in pulverizing everything for more immediate results and losing half the treasure: those whole cherries, plump with liqueur, and perfect for adding to ice creams and--as the book that pervaded my dreams suggested--crepes?

I did eventually find a recipe for whole Cherry Schnapps, but now that the dream has lots its immediate grip and I'm wondering where the heck I'll be geographically in half a decade (or so), I don't know if such long-term plans fit into my life.

Alternately, summer and the aromatic peach (with its also almondy, albeit supposedly poisonous, stone) is just a couple of months away. Bourbon peach tart, anyone?

*In case you were wondering, Five Quarters of the Orange (by Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat) was a pretty damn depressing read and Framboise a stoic, unsympathetic character--though maybe that's just me not being able to handle "serious" books--but the bits that focused on food were pretty wonderful.

**At least this is how I imagine it--I'm not sure that the cherries really do turn white.

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What is it with summer and plump fruits that gets us into the liquer making mood? I'm waiting for sour cherries to make "ginginha" an excellent Portuguese liqueur (I will write about it in my blog). The original idea came from a friend of my son who went to Portugal on a conference and brough some from there. He sang its praises and we thought of actually getting some over here, through the Ontario Liquor Board (unfortunately we cannot import spirits any other way).

Well, because ginginha is not one of their products we were forced to purchase twelve boxes (24 bottles) and with all the commissions it would costs us about $80.00 per bottle. So I decided I'm going to make some. And it takes about 4 months or so to mature. And no piercing the cherries (that I remember, that is). 

from Ana

6/09/2005 06:01:00 AM  

I found Five Quarters of the Orange depressing, too. I mean, I totally respect authors' rights to write utterly depressing fiction that gnaws at your core for weeks after you've put the book down... but it really shocked me coming from the author of Chocolat! I expected a little more spark from her, some lingering beauty... :-) 

from Jessica

6/09/2005 08:56:00 PM  

Ana, that sounds perfect. I can't wait to read about the making of ginginha on your blog. What kind of alcohol goes into ginginha and do you add sugar?

Jessica, I've never actually read Chocolat. I did enjoy the author's loving descriptions of food in Five Quarters, so if, as you say, Chocolat has "more spark," more...passion (I suppose), perhaps I should give it a chance.


from Rachel

6/10/2005 03:25:00 PM  

I didn't like the book, though a good friend of mine did enjoy it. I am trying the cherry liquer (pits and all) and they are turning white. So I can satisfy my instant gratification problem I also made a couple of quick types (6 months) too. I can't imagine it being so much better as this batch is fabulous! 

from ruth

11/13/2006 10:33:00 AM  

Hi Ruth,

That is very exciting to hear (about the cherries in your liquer turning white)--how long did that take? 

from Rachel

11/14/2006 05:21:00 AM  

hey i am trying to make cherry liquer too, got the idea from the book itself, liked the book five quarters of the orange. Havent read chocolat, watched the film instead.

any idea on whether to use brandy or vodka.Most recipes say vodka , one i read says brandy. Any suggestions.

6/04/2008 04:56:00 PM  

Hi there blues-woman,

I'm no expert on the subject, but I'm guessing that if you use vodka, this will give the cherry flavor center stage, since vodka is (I think) chosen in part because of its lack of aroma. With brandy, you'll have the flavors and scents of brandy and cherry intermingling, which could be delicious, but perhaps not as versatile, say, for cooking.

6/11/2008 02:32:00 PM  

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