Thursday, July 16, 2009

Drunken cherries and berries

The Oregonian published an article recently on preserving sweet cherries, with one of the recipes calling for Rainiers and wine. Wine and cherries? Ben and I were sold.

We already had berries and cherries on the brain, so we added this idea to our list of weekend preserving projects.

This is the time of year when you can’t decide which berries to eat. When you want to buy at least a pint of every type of berry at the farmers market. But if you did, you would eat berries all week and still never make it through all of them – red raspberries, white raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, blackberries, marion berries, and even currants, all fill the market. Marion berries are my current favorite – they are the sweetest, softest, juiciest blackberry you will ever eat. They, unfortunately for those not living in the Pacific Northwest, are primarily unique to this area, and, like the hood river strawberries, are too delicate to make it past the local markets.

We set to work this weekend, our refrigerator filled with fruit. We made marionberry jam. We made blueberry jam. Then, we heated some cheap wine in a saucepan with lemon zest and sugar, brought it to a boil, reduced it, and poured it into the quart canning jar, already filled with fresh bing cherries. We did the process all over again, but this time, Ben filled two quart-sized canning jars with marion berries. I poured the heated wine into the jars and sealed them tight. They will be delicious over ice cream. They will be delicious over just about anything and even delicious over nothing! I also imagine folding them into some kind of baked good, such as scones or muffins. We also made pickles, using Ben's grandma's recipe of garlic, dill, and vinegar.

If you have never made jam, don’t be intimidated by it. It is actually really simple. You can even buy pectin that allows you to make sugar-free or reduced-sugar jam. I used this pectin in the marionberry jam, using only about 1/3 cup of raw sugar and it set right up perfectly. Nothing compares to home-made jam, using berries at the peak of freshness and adding only those things YOU want in your jam, nothing else.

We have already dug into the first jar of cherries, eating a few after dinner for dessert, and then grabbing a few more.

The other day, we made home-made vanilla ice cream. When we sat down to eat our ice cream, with a heaping of the marion berries preserved in wine, we were in heaven. Ben said this is his favorite dessert ever. I agree. And, there will be quite a bit of the 'juice' left over once the berries are gone - I'm thinking this sauce will make delicious ice cream floats!

Marion berries preserved in wine:

You can get some cheap wine for this, either in a box or in the big jugs. We used a rose for the cherries and then chose chianti for the marion berries, wanting to try a drier wine. Both turned out delicious, so I encourage you to experiment and pick wines you like. We also did one with the vanilla and lemon and one without and, again, both were delicious and different.

1 quart-sized canning jar

1 pound (about 2 pints) fresh, ripe marion berries (or berry of your choice)

2 cups wine

1/2 cup raw sugar

1 tsp vanilla (optional)

zest of one small lemon (optional)

Run your canning jar through the dishwasher or stick it in some boiling water to steralize it. Wash your berries and place in the clean jar.

Heat the wine in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and stir in sugar. Allow the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and the zest, if using. Simmer until the mixture reduces to about 1 1/2 cups, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

Pour the wine mixture over the berries and seal tightly with the lid. Allow the jar to cool completely at room temperature and then stick it in the fridge. If you are listening nearby, you will hear the 'pop' of the lid sealing as it cools. Keep the jar in the fridge - this isn't shelf-preserving.

Wait at least 2 days before you enjoy them (I know, the waiting can be hard!!). Use within 3 months or so.


1 comment:

adam said...

That all looks fantastic! Great job. Be sure to let me know how the pickles turn out, and if you ever do any other recipes. I tend to be a pickle fanatic, but I've never made any.
With the heat were having, ice cream everyday with your berries, sounds particularly satisfying.