The end of July heralds the start of cherry-picking season in Door County Wisconsin — the boozy recipe featured here is classic Americana, dating back to the time of George Washington. This was one of his favorite indulgences brought from England; it is reported that Martha would always pack a decanter of Cherry Bounce for him when he traveled. It was traditionally made with fine French Brandy and crushed cherries with pits. Knowing that cherry pits and other orchard fruit pits contain trace amounts of hydrogen cyanide, I prefer to leave them out. (I suspect it’s also the reason our first President had wooden teeth.)
The cherry crop in Door County has been decimated by bitter cold the last two years in January. Many trees have succumbed to the -20°F prolonged killing temperature, adding to market demand. I was lucky enough to find a quart of whole tart cherries from Robertson’s Orchard at a farmer’s market in downtown Green Bay last weekend. I quickly put them to good use.
My alcohol vice — 100-proof bourbon. This recipe is also stellar with brandy, rye whiskey, rum, vodka, and even tequila. Let it happily infuse until Christmas — then share with friends by making Manhattans, and serve the halved cherries in the drinks as a garnish, or over ice cream. Enjoy!
1 quart whole tart Door County Wisconsin cherries, with pits (halve and discard pits)
4 cups bourbon, or your choice of liquor
1/2 cup white sugar
Purchase the freshest cherries you can find. Whole tart cherries work best because you are going to be adding sugar to the infusion. Select a two-quart glass container with a sturdy lid. Wash the container and lid in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly.
Using a colander, wash the cherries thoroughly in cold water. Drain.
Using a sharp, thin paring knife, slit each cherry around the circumference and discard the pit. Add to the glass jar. Pour in four cups of bourbon and then the sugar.
Seal the jar. Invert and stir gently, then let sit in a cool, dark closet or basement. Invert the bottle and stir weekly so the sugar infuses. Open no sooner than Christmas-time.
Serve the liquor in traditional Manhattans.