Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What to do with black cherries

Every year I see thousands of black cherries fall to the ground.  Every winter I knock the shells of the pits off the firewood before bringing it in the house....the squirrels sit there and eat them all winter.  Every spring I weed clusters of baby cherry trees out of my gardens, where the squirrels buried them and forgot a few dozen stashes.

This year will be different.  This year I'm ready.  This year I'm picking and freezing cherries for our use.

Every day I pick a cup or two and add them to the freezer bags.

Not quite ripe....a few black ones in the background.

Spotting wild cherries from a distance.

This tree has more cherries that will be ready in a few days.

Make sure they are low enough to reach!

They fall off as they ripen, so they need to be picked daily.

A cup here and a cup adds up quickly!

Last year I made a few into a liquour by adding vodka to them and letting them sit in a dark cupboard for a month, shaking the jar daily, then I strained it.  Tasted exactly like cough syrup.  It actually wasn't too bad if I added a shot to some other type of juice for a punch-like taste.  But I have no desire to make that again.

This year I'm going to get bold and make a cherry flavored mead, which is a honey wine.  I won't use too many cherries so the cherry flavor will be rather mild, hopefully.  I really don't want a bunch of bottles of cough syrup.  I'll let it age for a year or two....sorry, we won't know if this project is worthwhile for some time.

Homemade country wines (those made from fruits and herbs other than grapes) can be delicious and very cheap to make.  It is super simple....reading about it is far more complicated and intimidating than actually making it.  Honest.  I swear.  I've made raspberry wine for 27 cents a bottle....and another few cents for the cork.  Seriously.  If you can get your flavoring fruit or herbs for free, your only cost is the sugar or honey (necessary for the formation of alcohol, it doesn't mean your wine will be sugary), the yeast (about a buck for enough to make five gallons, or 25 bottles of wine), and the corks.  Maybe a few cents more for labels if you aren't that adventurous and feel a need to label your wines.

It is also a great way to get wine with no added chemicals.  Sulfites are used to kill any wild yeasts that might get into the wine, and to stop the fermentation of the yeast you chose to add.  This is not necessary and is a fairly modern technique.  I prefer the adventure that comes with every fermented food or beverage....what will this batch taste like?  Will it be ordinary, amazing, or undrinkable?  I haven't had any undrinkable ones yet....well, almost, but I neglected to dump it down the sink and after a year it went from horrid to amazing.

Even wines labelled "no added sulfites" can contain a fair amount of sulfites.  They can rinse out the bottles, kegs, barrels, or casks with a sulfite solution and not rinse it.  Voila.  Sulfites in your wine but not on your label.  Not so with homemade versions.

I'm not a huge wine drinker but I enjoy making it.  Science meets the kitchen.  Fascinating!  And I never know which ones I will like.  Onion wine is a favorite for cooking.  Mint wine started out tasting like a cross between mouthwash and rocket fuel but became something unique, light, and summery, a wonderful after dinner wine, after a year or so of aging.  All the lovely color of watermelon fell to the bottom of the bottle, leaving a pale yellow wine with an odd flavor.  You just never know.  That is half the fun.


  1. Hello :).

    I came across your blog while searching for more information on black cherry trees. I recently became interested in learning more about the different trees we have in our yard. I was surprised to find we have quite a plethora of black cherry trees. Ever since I found out I've been eager to put the cherries to good use in various recipes, but it's been somewhat hard to find any recipes specifically for wild black cherries. Do you happen to know of any? Thanks in advance for your help!


  2. Glad you found us, Chelsea!

    Other than the boozy ones above, the only other use I know of is as jelly or syrup. But in that concentration, they taste so much like Luden's cough drops, it doesn't seem worth it. I'd suggest that you mix it with other fruits for this reason. Unless you love-love-love Luden's cough drops!

    I'm going to make the mead because we are a very low sugar household, and most of the sugar is gone by the time the wine is ready to drink. I hope to get that batch of mead going in the next couple of weeks....I'll be sure to post it here!