Sunday, August 26, 2007

One More Thing...

A friend of mine works at a gourmet grocery store. Recently they were all given a sample of a new product, Dark Cherries in Merlot. She called me up and told me I had to try them and then I had to figure out a way to duplicate them. Not one to shrink from a culinary challenge I have taken a stab at it. When I tasted them I decided there was vanilla, cinnamon and something else. It gave the syrup an almost medicinal taste, but good. It wasn't quite peppermint but what...
I found the product online and it listed some of the flavors. Cinnamon, vanilla, black pepper, bergamot, bay and... galangal root. That was the taste I couldn't identify. Galangal has an almost camphor-like taste. I did not have any in the cupboard nor did I have any bergamot. So instead I used cinnamon, vanilla, bay, pepper, lavender, and anise. The original cherries are not pitted. They are packed raw into the jar then covered with hot syrup and processed. This cooks them a bit. I did not intend to process them so I pitted them and simmered them in the syrup mixture for a couple of minutes. Then I removed them and reduced the syrup. It's not the original but it's pretty tasty anyway. I'll have to get some vanilla ice cream or some pound cake to have them on. I think they would also be good with game or pork.
For those who want to make some themselves (and I recommend it despite the price of late season cherries) here is my version.

1 1/2 cups pitted dark cherries
1 generous cup merlot (about 10 oz)
3 Tbs corn syrup
1/3-1/2 cup of sugar (I'm not exactly sure how much I added-start with less and add if needed)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 or 3 pieces of star anise
1 tsp dried lavender
pinch of peppermint
ground black pepper or several whole peppercorns
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar

Pit the cherries with a pitter or a paring knife. Put them in a pot with the wine. Add the syrup, sugar, and vinegar. Put in the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Put the other spices in a tea ball and suspend in the mixture. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1-2 minutes, just to exchange some juices. Take out the cherries with a slotted spoon and put into a jar. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce by about 1/3 or so, until it's a little syrupy. Remove the tea ball, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Pour the hot syrup over the cherries and seal the jar. If you intend to keep them for a while they will need to be in a canning jar and they will have to be processed in a hot water bath for at least 15 minutes per pint. But if you're just going to eat them up then any old jar will do. You can store them in the refrigerator if it's going to be a few days. But they may not last that long.


Kicking N. Screaming said...

Now I feel bad for not working on those bars you sent me. I keep the packaging in the kitchen and I've moved it around several times while doing other things. Every time I think "I really need to set aside a Saturday afternoon for that..." but I haven't. Because I'm a looooooser.

The Plaid Sheep said...

I didn't want to say anything but....