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First harvest from my own Apricot trees EVER!

We were in full on summer here. June strawberries are long gone, cherries are just finishing up, apricots and raspberries are ripe, and the first nectarines and peaches are starting to appear at farmers markets. If you happen to have fruit trees, now is the time you start stuffing fruit into jars and freezer bags in an effort to deal with the deluge of fruit sitting on your kitchen counter right now.

But you can only eat so much jam and make so many smoothies. Yes, pies and buckles and crumbles and crisps are nice, but may not be where your diet is at right now. Alternatives?

Shrubs and Liqueurs!

Shrubs

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Apricot shrub, made from the bird pecked apricots, with the bad parts cut away. Ready to age in the frdge.

What’s a shrub. Well, they are the latest foodie drink trend, of course. Combining the concentrated flavor of fruit juice and sugar with the acidic bite and possible health benefits of vinegar, you make the shrub concentrate and then add a few tablespoons to club soda or other liquid (including cocktails) for a refreshing change of pace.

The sugar and vinegar in the shrub preserve it, making it last pretty much forever if refrigerated. There are lots of recipes out there for shrubs. The main thing they seem to have in common is equal parts by weight of any fruit, sugar, and then vinegar (added to the strained juice). Vinegar type is up to you, but you want to use a vinegar that is 5% or more acid for its preservation qualities.

Here’s my favorite science cook, Alton Brown’s intro to shrubs. I really like the idea of adding in a sprig of an herb or spice for added complexity.

Here’s another recipe, from Ball. Because the fruit in this one is simply macerated with the sugar and not cooked, and then the juice/vinegar is allowed to sit in the fridge for a few weeks, it is really more of a fermented beverage and the flavor changes over time. Look for vinegar with the mother for this one, as an active vinegar is going to help with the additional fermentation and complexity of the finished syrup.  I have both an apricot and a cherry shrub aging in my fridge right now.

Liqueurs

IMG_20180709_182147036watermarkAt their simplest, DIY liqueurs are just fresh chopped fruit seeped in some kind of alcohol (ethanol people – adult beverages that are a minimum of 80 proof, which is 40% alcohol) for some period of time, then strained and sugar added. Because alcohol at this level has a preservative affect, its pretty much bomb proof in terms of safety (though once you start drinking it, I can’t be responsible for your behavior – grin). The make a great cocktail mixer, or just on their own with some fizzy water.

This is a base recipe, found trolling the interwebs a few years ago. Feel free to use something other than vodka, and add additional herbs or spices to your mix.

  • 1 lb. (450 g) berries or fruit
  • 3 cups (710 ml) 80-proof vodka
  • 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) granulated sugar

Rinse the fruit or berries. Chop into small pieces. Place berries or fruit in a container (1/2 gallon mason jars are perfect for this), add vodka. Cap (write date on lid) and store in a cool, dark place, stirring or shaking once a week for 2 – 4 weeks. Strain through fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. If you want it really clear, strain again through one of those reusable gold coffee filters. Transfer the unsweetened liqueur to an ageing container (glass bottle or container with tight cap). To 3 cups (710) ml unsweetened liqueur add 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) granulated sugar – or to taste. The sugar isn’t really necessary for preservation. Keep good notes. Let age for at least three months (but you can taste it now). Decant into a new bottle, leaving anything that has settled out behind, if you think of it, before using.

Several detailed recipes for liqueurs and bitters and other fun stuff can be found here.

Lastly, who didn’t love the maraschino cherry in your Shirley Temple or topping your ice cream sundae as a kid? Well, sort of. Even as I kid I thought they were kind of gross. But they were sweet, and I had a huge sweet tooth, so I ate them.

A few years ago, when we were swimming in cherries, it occurred to me to make them from scratch. I amassed a bunch of recipes via the internet, sought out Luxardo maraschino cherry liqueur in Spokane (because we had yet to discover Mid Columbia Wine and Spirits in Kennewick – you still can’t buy it within 40 miles of Walla Walla), and made our first batch. They are a vast improvement to the bright Red 40 dyed plastic ones I grew up on.

Lots of ways you can go with these, and lots of variations with different alcohols and spices (I made this last batch using a good whiskey for 1/2 of the liqueur). Brandy is a common direction. I DO think the salt water bath step to firm up the cherries before they go for their bath in booze is a good idea.

Maraschino Cherries for Adults

  • 1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (or pie cherries)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 Tbsp salt

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  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 C of maraschino liqueur
  • ¼ tsp almond extract

Wash and pit the cherries.

Bring water and salt to a boil, stirring until salt is dissolved. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pour over pitted cherries. Cover and let sit 12 hours or overnight.

Drain cherries, discarding brine, and rinse in cold water. Set cherries in to canning jar.

In a saucepan, combine water, sugar and lemon juice and bring to a rolling boil.

Remove from heat, add the liqueur or booze, vanilla and almond extracts, and pour over cherries.

Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to two weeks, though honestly, we have some that are 2 years old and they are fine. Again, the alcohol acts as a preservative.

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Cheers!

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Mortgage Lifter! First ripe heirloom of the season.

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Pinterest idea made manifest. Herb garden spiral. Only took cutting down a ill-placed blue spruce tree to make it happen.

© Miles Away Farm 2018, where we’re miles away from looking forward to the heat wave that is late July/early August, but we can’t wait to eat tomatoes at every meal!