There are a few things that can be used to preserve food: salt, sugar, and dehydration. And booze. Ohhh yeah.
In the summer months in Greece it is not uncommon to see jars filled with dark, garnet hued liquid in clear glass jars sitting out on sunny balconies or even roof tops. You may even see someone come out and give each jar a shake to mix up the contents.
What they are making is a syrup from fresh sour cherries, sugar, and spices. The contents are thrown together in a jar and allowed to macerate in the summer sun. The heat and the sugar draw out the juices from the cherries, and it slowly turns into this delicious, sweet, slightly spiced concoction. It’s a little like a cherry pie in liquid form.
So what do you do with it? Remember the booze part? Traditionally, brandy is added to the cherry mix. It creates a delightful drink called vissino liqueur, that’s enjoyed long after the cherry season has passed. It warms up a cold winter night, and is a lovely after dinner drink to enjoy with friends and family!
One thing to note is that the traditional way to make this takes about two months. Be patient. The cherry and sugar mix sits in the jar outside for 40 days. It may seem like a random number, but it has biblical connections. It is also a long enough time to really draw out the moisture from the cherries and for all the flavors to blend together. After the 40 day period is over, you add the brandy to the mix and allow it to blend for a few days more. At that point it is ready to serve. Drink it as you would any other type of cordial, allowing for a couple of the cherries to go into each glass, and yes, you eat the cherries!
Greek Sour Cherry Cordial Recipe
- 2 lbs. sour cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted (check out my post for the best method for pitting cherries here)
- 4 c. granulated sugar
- 1 3-inch stick of cinnamon
- 5 whole cloves
If you are starting with fresh cherries, be sure to wash and pit them. If you use a cherry pitter, center the stem end of the cherry over the hole that the pit will go through and have the plunger push from the blossom end. This pushes the pit through without taking a chunk of cherry with it. Put the pitted cherries in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Place the pits in a small bowl. If you are starting with frozen cherries that have already been pitted, just put them in the jar and skip the next paragraph.
Add a 1/2 cup of boiling water to the bowl of cherry pits. Stir the water around and allow it to sit for a few minutes to extract any juice in the flesh still attached to the pits. Pour the cherry pits and water into a strainer over a bowl. Add the liquid to the cherries.
Add the sugar and spices to the cherries. Cover the jar and shake the contents just enough to mix it together. The sugar will not be dissolved completely, yet, but you want to make sure that the cherries are all coated. Seal the jar and place the jar in a sunny location outside.
Shake the jar gently every day at first until enough liquid is extracted and the sugar is completely dissolved. After that, you can swirl the jar every few days. After the 40 day period is over, add 5 cups of a decent quality brandy. Allow this mix to sit in a cool, dark place for at least a few days to allow all the flavors to meld together. This liquor will last for a very long time, assuming you let it!