Children, Cherries, and Vodka

I likely won’t win any parenting awards for this post but Anni has been wonderfully helpful making fruit liqueurs with me.  You may remember that during a gorgeous moment on horseback last month, I pretended I was 21 again flying down the field wielding a mallet.  Alas, despite my love of Jillian Michael’s workout videos, no amount of “shredding with weights” can protect a 36 years old woman from herniating a disc when the galloping polo pony opts to go one way and she another.  Somehow, after recovering fully last week (or so I thought), washing a baby bottle on Sunday night sent me into a full spinal seizure.

Now: Here I am.  Grouchy as hell.  Grateful for friends dropping by narcotics and baked goods.  Endlessly Icing my back as my husband valiantly fills my shoes as a stay-at-home-Mommy (+ still working full time Daddy) and I am scheduled for an MRI. He is doing a great job as I sit here like a frowning toad. So instead of being able to really cook, garden, or explore recipes here at the Farmhouse, my 3 years old Sous Chef and my very sedentary self have been making liquor.  Lots and lots of liquor.

Melita Road dark cherries ready for the Jar.

Melita Road dark cherries ready for the Jar.

We’ve been sticking to fruits in season and right now, the dark cherries are lustrous! In California, there will be a short Cherry season.  I heard from my Cherry guy up on Melita Road that the early-spring weather spelled disaster and this year’s yield is a mere 14% from last year.  Perhaps he was subtly upping my purchase but it worked.  Last week, before this searing vice grip of pain, I bought 6 pounds of dark organic cherries, made a U-turn for Safeway where Anni and I bought a huge gallon of Kettle One Vodka, a smaller bottle of Maker’s Mark, and one flat of wide mouth pint jars by Mason.

At home we rinsed the cherries and I scalded the jars in a roiling water bath.  Coltrane and Dean helped by eating cherries while Anni plucked off the stems and piled fresh plump cherries high up on our food scale.  She learned how to feel if the cherry was “yucky” and to put those aside.  Anni did a great job “measuring” out 2 pounds of cherries per batch.  We made 3 batches over the week — 2 vodka and 1 bourbon.  Each “batch” uses 2-2&1/2 pounds of cherries and yields three pint jars

Measuring out Cherries is a perfect job for your little Sous Chef

Measuring out Cherries is a perfect job for your little Sous Chef

Next, I took the clean, still-warm jars and Anni packed them tightly with intact cherries.  I carefully filled the jars with vodka or bourbon up until about 1/4″ from the rim.  You can use grappa too.  The alcohol just must be 80 Proof or higher.  We sealed them tight, labeled and dated the jars and stacked them up in a cool dark shelf to be enjoyed and given as gifts when the weather cools this Fall.  And mommy went back to icing.

Cherries in Vodka Waiting for lids.

Cherries in Vodka Waiting for lids.

I love cooking.  A big part of cooking for me is helping Anni develop her own love of foods.  To find her own joy in the kitchen and in the garden. I am so very proud of my feisty little girl.  But something surprised me about making this “Cherry Moonshine” — little Anni realized she was making something for other people to enjoy.  Something for “tall people only” that she wasn’t even going to taste but that was going to be “something special” in the Fall for her Daddy, Mama, LaLa and Papa-Wil.  And she was happy to be helping make her family happy.  And that, dear friends, is one of my favorite truths about cooking.

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