Ratafia de Cerises

The fruits of Summer always amaze, the sweetness and flavor unmatched. Though I have been previously obsessed with jams and jellies as a preservation technique, the last couple of years have been a period of experimentation with other preserving techniques. Syrups, cordials, and infusions are a great way to capture the essence of Summer fruits, and are easy to make, often requiring little or any cooking.

Traditionally a Ratafia is made from either crushed apricot kernels or cherry pits, infused in a syrup that has been fortified with brandy or vodka. Sounds simple? Yes, but every source I came across mentioned the presence of cyanide in both apricot kernels and cherry pits, and the danger of this drink! Now, this is the kind of thing that always seriously annoys me, where is the science? I don’t believe that such a recipe would exist and be made continually if there was a serious danger but, lacking contact with a lab to test the cyanide content or  the time to really explore the subject, I mean I have cherries on my counter with a shelf life (!), I present you with an alternative. And, if anyone has real concrete scientific findings on the cyanide content and it’s real danger, please share!

I first made this last Summer, as an experiment. I really liked the result and it was the perfect, really perfect, beverage for the late Fall and Winter. Perfect on those days when I returned wet from the forest, with basket of mushrooms, or damp from the ocean, with basket of mussels. This is for the forager at heart, it will sweeten and warm the inside while calming that wild invigorated look that comes from foraging on a cold and windy day.

Ratafia de Cerises

  1. 1 1/2 pounds cherries, I used the Bing variety
  2. Brandy, 750ml bottle
  3. 1 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1 1/2 cup water
  5. I vanilla bean
  • Make a simple syrup by mixing the sugar and water and bringing to a boil.
  • Wash and pit the cherries.
  • In a clean glass container, add the pitted cherries, the simple syrup, the brandy, and vanilla bean.
  • Mix well.
  • Store in a cool dark place for a month. Strain, reserving the cherries (for ice cream or a special tarte !).

This is a very flavorful and aromatic infusion, the perfume of the vanilla marries the sweet earthiness of the cherries with the caramel-like and mild bouquet of the brandy, both delicate but harmonious with the vanilla. It also happens to be what I use, instead of cognac, when I make Julia Childs’ recipe, Mousse de Foies de Volaille.

Ratafia de Cerises on Punk Domestics

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