Drink Week, Day Three: No-Cook Sour Cherry Syrup

sour cherries

It’s day three of Drink Week! Today’s topic is the no-cook fruit syrup. Because sometimes, it’s just too darn hot to turn on the stove for even a minute. This sour cherry version is ideal with a little spritz, so make sure to click over and enter the Sodastream giveaway. Make sure to check out the previous two Drink Week posts, Black Raspberry Syrup and Cherry Bounce and Other Boozy Infusions.

no-cook sour cherry syrup

If you search this website, you will see that my obsession with sour cherries is well-documented. There are at least two different jam recipes here, and recently, I’ve been tempted to post a third, since lately I’ve been making a whole sour cherry preserve that would knock your socks off. But this isn’t about cherry preserves. This about a revelation I had recently. It’s the no-cook, whole fruit syrup.

spoon a few dollops (cherries and all)

In essence, you put a some fruit in a jar (in this case, two cups of pitted sour cherries). Pour half as much sugar in (one cup of organic cane sugar) and then smash the heck out of the fruit with a wooden spoon, tiny potato masher or the end of a rolling pin (I used a little muddler that looks like a tiny baseball bat). After you’ve taken out your aggressions, just park the jar in the fridge overnight and forget about it.

pour on the fizz

The next day, check on your jar of sugared and smashed fruit. In some cases, the sugar will be entirely dissolved, but not always. If not, give the jar a good shake (make sure you’ve got a tight-fitting lid on there or you’ll be covered in sticky juice) and put it back. After a day or so of chilling and shaking, you should be left with a jar full of fruit and syrup, ready to be used.

enjoy

Once it’s gotten nice and juicy, you have two choices. You can either strain the fruit from the syrup, discard it and proceed to use the syrup as you’d like. Or you can do what I do, and add those tender bits of sour cherry to your glass. I like it with some sparkling water and, on occasion, two or three drops of bourbon (for a very mild, faux, fizzy Manhattan). You can also use it to make instant sangria. Just add a few spoonfuls of the sour cherries and their syrup to a glass of red wine, ice cubes and sparkling water. Stir and quaff.

This technique also works with plums, apricots and plums. Try it. I think you’ll be sold.

Oh, and if all this talk of sparkling water has you parched, don’t forget to enter the Sodastream giveaway!

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Drink Week, Day Two: Cherry Bounce and Other Boozy Infusions

a pound of cherries and a cup of sugar

It’s day two of Drink Week! Today we’re talking boozy infusions (though I’m only scratching the surface of a very deep topic). These all would go well with a splash seltzer, so make sure to click over and enter the Sodastream giveaway. Make sure to check out the day one Drink Week post, Black Raspberry Syrup, too.

The inspiration to make Cherry Bounce came entirely from this blog post over on The Runaway Spoon. When I saw this one pop in my reader, I believe I said the words “oh yes” out loud. And when I picked up a mixed flat of cherries last weekend (half sweet and half sour), I knew that a pound of those sweeties were heading for a jar of this.

sugared cherries

The process is incredibly easy (and is nearly identical to most of the fruit-infused booze I’ve made). Get a large jar squeaky clean (the half gallon Ball jars are perfect for this). Add some fruit (in this case, a pound). Top with a cup of sugar and some form of bourbon (I used five cups of Maker’s Mark*). This bounce should be reaching maximum deliciousness right around Christmas.

Other infusions use vodka or everclear (around these parts, we have to drive to New Jersey to buy our everclear), and wait to add the sugar until after the fruit has infused. But still, it really couldn’t be a simpler process to make your own fruity booze.

booze and cherries

When it comes to infused spirits, you don’t have to stick strictly to fruit either. All manner of herbs, vegetables and even bacon (yes, bacon) are fair game.

In addition to the cherry bounce, here are some other infusions I’ve either currently got steeping in my front hall closet or I’ve been meaning to try.

pouring

I had Deena’s strawberry liqueur once when I was out in Portland, and wow, is it ever good stuff! I brought home a small amount and my sister nicknamed it Jam-Boozy on the spot. (Someone needs to market a product line with that name.) Because of that, I had no doubt that her Rhubarb Liqueur instructions would also be spot-on. I just recently strained mine and added the simple syrup. Now begins the waiting. Check out the rest of her “boozy” category for more good infusions.

and stir

I’ve also got a batch of Heather’s Limoncello cranking away in same said closet. I followed this particular recipe in large part because I was entirely smitten by the line “a cup of honey for that sensuous fuzzy bee flavor.” If you’re not reading Voodoo and Sauce, you’re missing out all sorts of lovely bits of language like that.

Audra of Doris and Jilly Cooks is another one of my infused spirit mentors. Though she hasn’t really posted about it, she has hinted her plum liqueur in this post. I plan to follow suit as soon as the plums are ripe.

Sean of Punk Domestic fame is a known booze-infuser. He had a guest post on David Lebovitz’s blog recently, about strawberry-infused vodka. Mmm.

What boozy infusions do you all like to make? Do you currently have anything steeping away in front hall closet (or basement, garage or guest bathroom?)

Don’t forget that I’m giving away a Sodastream as part of my week of homemade syrups, shrubs and infusions. Make sure to click over and leave a comment to enter the giveaway (one entry per person, please).

*For those of you who are curious, Maker’s Mark is a whisky bourbon. All bourbons are whiskys, but not all whiskys are bourbons.

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Drink Week, Day One: Black Raspberry Syrup

black raspberries

Welcome to the first day of Drink Week! The next five days will feature fruit and herbal syrups, boozy infusions and shrubs that will have you planning parties to feature your new specialty cocktails and mocktails (and because I’m not much of a drinker, you’ll definitely see as many virgin options as you do the spiked ones). As part of Drink Week, I’m giving away a Sodastream seltzer maker (click here to enter the giveaway).

You didn’t think you’d seen the last of those black raspberries, did you? I had a whole flat of those gorgeous little berries to use, so they may well turn up even a third time (if all things go as planned).

Let me share a secret about myself with you. I am a sparkling water lover. Rarely does a day go by (particularly during the summer months) when I don’t pour myself a glass of fizzy water. Often I drink it plain, or with a squirt of lemon juice (one of these dehydrated lemon slices works too). Sometimes, I muddle a little bit of runny jam into my glass (it’s a great way to use up something with a less-than-perfect set). And occasionally, I make something designed just for stirring with seltzer.

three cups black raspberries in the vitamix

For this syrup, I measured out 3 cups of black raspberries and used the Vitamix to pulverize them into a delicious goo (wear an apron and keep it away from light-colored counter tops, it stains upon contact). If your kitchen happens to be lacking a fancy blender, you could also pulse them in a food processor or even just go to town with a potato masher.

I scraped the puree into a saucepan and stirred in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar. I brought it to a quick simmer and let it cook for 5-6 minutes. Because the starting puree was so thick, it didn’t need much time on the stove to come together.

straining black raspberry syrup

Using a very fine mesh sieve, I separated the syrup from their seeds. Don’t be afraid to really work the seedy bits and press firmly to remove the last bits of liquid. You’re not extracting liquid for jelly so there’s no need to be delicate or attempt to prevent cloudiness. At this point, taste your syrup. If it isn’t sweet enough, you can add a bit more sugar and return it to the saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. If it is too sweet, stir in a little lemon juice to balance the flavors.

black raspberry syrup on left, seedy remains on right

Because I hate waste, after the syrup was decanted into it’s own jar, I plopped the leftover seeds in their own vessel and topped it with 2 cups distilled white vinegar. After it spends a couple weeks imparting all that lovely black raspberry flavor into the vinegar, I’ll strain the seeds out and finally throw them away.

Sodastream fizzy water with black raspberry syrup (44)

After that, it’s just a matter of spooning a bit of the syrup into a tall glass and topping it off with a long pour of sparkling water. A couple of ice cubes and you have a refreshing summer drink. For the grown-ups in the crowd, you could add a bit of vodka or a fruity liqueur.

Because this recipe makes a cup and a half of syrup, I popped it into the fridge and skipped any processing step. However, should you be facing a massive raspberry harvest (this technique works just as well with red raspberries or even blackberries), you could make up a far larger batch and process it in pints or half pints in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Just remember that sugar is a preservative, so if you cut the sugar content drastically, the syrup will not have as long a shelf life.

Now, make yourself some black raspberry syrup and head over to enter the Sodastream giveaway!

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Zojirushi Winner

There’s a winner in the Zojirushi giveaway! Congratulations to commenter #130, Amy of the blog Minnesota Locavore. Amy, I’ll be in touch soon. For the rest of you, stay tuned. There’s a new, very excellent giveaway coming your way tomorrow (if you haven’t noticed, I’ve declared this the summer of giveaways. Pretty fun!).

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Black Raspberry Jam

beautiful blacks

I discovered raspberries when I was nine years old. That was the first spring my family lived in Portland, and tucked back behind our garage were some well-established red raspberry canes. For the weeks that they were in season, I would squeeze myself into the space between the garage and the fence and eat every ripe berry I could reach.

pre-mashing

It’s been years since I’ve had access like that to raspberries. My parents have a few canes, but I’m rarely able to get out to Portland when they’re ripe. In the last few years, I’ve made a point of indulging in a bit of raspberry u-pick, but until this week I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the last time I felt well and truly sated when it comes to raspberries.

four pints

Raspberry season arrived earlier this week to my neck of the country and I determined to splurge on a truly indulgent volume of berries. I opted for black raspberries, after hearing their many virtues praised by a friend who’s berry-judgment I greatly trust. On Tuesday, I took myself on a little field trip out to Lancaster County to buy jars at Good’s Store and pick up a flat of black raspberries from Shenk Berry Farm.

cooking black raspberry jam

Though I was mostly innocent to black raspberries before this week, I am now well and truly converted to their many charms. They are smaller than their red siblings and quite seedy, but not in an unpleasant way. There’s a slight hint of wine in each bite. And they make dark, gorgeous, spreadable jam.

black raspberry jam

The following recipe is a very basic one. There’s nothing here but fruit, sugar, lemon and a just a bit of pectin (though if you’re okay with a slightly runnier jam, you could easily do without. Just make sure to track your temperature with a thermometer to insure you get to the set point).

Feel free to add cinnamon, nutmeg, sage leaves, star anise or some other flavor enhancer, should you wish. This recipe would also work equally well with red raspberries if black ones are not to be had in your area.
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Making Jam in a Zojirushi Bread Maker + Giveaway

zojirushi

Most of the time, I make jam on my turquoise, 45 year old, electric stove. I’ve also made jam on a camp stove, on an induction burner, on an plain gas stove and even on a high-powered commercial gas range. And now, I’ve even made jam in a bread machine.

high tech berry masher

Several months ago, I spotted this post on the King Arthur Flour blog, in which they make a batch of strawberry jam in a Zojirushi bread machine. Being that I’m fascinated by all things having to do with jam making (don’t tell me you didn’t notice), I determined that this was something I wanted to try. In the interest of science, of course.

berries, sugar, lemon

I got in touch with the folks at Zojirushi and they very nicely agreed to give me a review unit so that I could see how this whole bread machine jam thing worked. It arrived on my birthday (which was more than a month ago now) and I spent at least a week circling it warily, uncertain whether I wanted to trust my fruit to an automated machine that wouldn’t let me control the heat source.

adding lemon juice

Finally I unswaddled it from boxes and styrofoam, mashed up two cups of strawberries and got to work. The instructions that come with the Zojirushi say to combine 2 cups of crushed berries, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. For the first round, I followed the instructions exactly and cooked the jam without any additional pectin.

about to cook the jam

Fruit, sugar and lemon juice go into the pan. Then you close the lid and set it to the jam setting (don’t be fooled by the 3:45 time in the picture above, I took that before I set it run the jam cycle. It only takes 1:20 to make jam in the Zojirushi). When the cooking time is up, the machine issues a couple of friendly beeps so that you can rush over and check on your jam (that is, if you weren’t hovering very nearby, occasionally lifting the lid a little to peek at the progress).

80 minutes

So here’s the good news. This machine, which was designed to bake bread, makes perfectly adequate jam. It gets quite hot, the paddles keep the jam moving to prevent any scorching and it’s dead easy to use. If you’re the type who likes to freeze fruit and make small batches of jam throughout the year, making your jam in a Zojirushi is a really good option. However, it has a major flaw as a jam maker and that is that with the lid closed, you’re just never going to get the necessary amount of evaporation to get a really thick jammy jam.

I did one batch without pectin (sorry, no pictures of the jam with pectin, I knocked it over just after pouring it into the jar and splattered my kitchen entirely in sticky fruit spray) and one with and both remained stubbornly runny and without the body that a good jam should have (though the batch with 2 teaspoons of powdered pectin did firm up more than the batch without).

strawberry jam made in the zo

The picture below pairs a stove cooked jam (on the left) with the jam cooked in this bread machine. You can see the difference in the body of the jam. The stove top jam reduced by more than 1/3 during cooking, resulting in a thick-set, glossy jam. The bread machine jam on the right is juicier and has saturated the bread with its syrup. Not a bad thing, but an imperfect thing to use on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It would be perfect stirred into yogurt or drizzled on ice cream though.

jammy toast

I will say that I’ve been absolutely blown away by the quality of the bread that the Zojirushi makes. Of course I couldn’t resist using it to bake up a few loaves while it was hanging out in my kitchen and wow. We haven’t bought bread in weeks thanks to this machine.

Now comes the fun part. Zojirushi has given me one bread/jam machine to giveaway to one of my readers, so that you can experience with making your fruit preserves on your counter top. To enter, leave a comment and share a story of jam making (when I taught canning classes at Terrain at Styer’s last summer, I made jam in a barn. That’s where we used camp stoves. It was really, really hot). One entry per person. United States residents only. Winner will be selected at random. Comments will close on Friday, June 24 at 11:59 p.m. and the winner will be posted the next day. Good luck!

Disclosure: Zojirushi gave me a bread machine in which to make jam as well as the one I’m giving away (all of this at no cost). However, my opinions are all my own.