Monday, June 13, 2016

HFF 2.12: In a Jam

The Historical Food Fortnightly Icon

The Challenge: Make jam, jelly, pickles, or other preserved food.

The Recipe: Cherry Bounce from The Cook's Own Book. Which is definitely about preserving cherries.
Take a peck of morella cherries and a peck of black hearts. Stone the morellas and crack the stones. Put all the cherries and the cracked stones into a demi-john wtth three pounds of loaf-sugar slightly pounded or beaten. Pour in two gallons of double-rectified whisky. Cork the demi-john and in six months the cherry bounce will be fit to pour off and bottle for use; but the older it is the better. 

The Date/Year and Region: 1854, American (Boston)

How Did You Make It:  I scaled down the recipe to approximately 1/8 it's original amount. One peck is two dry gallons, or approximately 6-7 lbs of cherries; so, the receipt requires approximately 3 pounds of cherries (1.5 lb of each type) for 1 liter of whiskey (1 liter ~ 1 fluid quart).  I also substituted local cherries for the named varieties: Washington sweet, dark cherries for the black hearts and Rainier for the morellas. The former seems to be a fair substitution (black hearts are sweet, dark, and hard to find today). Rainier cherries aren't as sweet as the dark ones, but they also aren't sour like the morella cherries called for in the receipt--unfortunately, they were the only other variety available just now.

To make it, I washed the cherries, and cut each in half to remove the pits.  Half of the pits were briefly chopped in the blender.  I then filled two quart-sized jars with the cherries, adding the cracked pits and  approximately 6 oz of sugar to each.  I poured whiskey into the jars until the fruit was covered, and then sealed them and set them aside.

Time to Complete: About 30 minutes to prepare (mostly pitting cherries); 6 months to mature.

Total Cost: Varies with price of cherries and quality of whiskey.

How Successful Was It?:  I won't know for some months yet.  

How Accurate Is It?: The cherry substitutions were noted above.  I have seen period references to using other cherry varieties (such as wild cherries, particularly Virginian ones), and to using rum or brandy as the liquor, so a certain amount of improvisation seems acceptable.  Another receipt only has the cherries infuse for 8-10 weeks, so I may be justified in sampling it before January (though, according to Mr. Irving, cherry bounce is a traditional New Year's refreshment).  Using the blender to crack the stones was not period, but I couldn't think of another way to do it without making a mess of my hammer and cutting board.  The receipts suggest that the cracked stones are optional and I've omitted them in the past--I will note, however, that the blender smelled very strongly of cherries, so I have hopes that this will result in an especially flavorful batch.
Rainier and Washington Dark Cherries

Cherries and stones for "Cherry Bounce" (1854 recipe)

Edit: I have since learned that cherry stones contain small quantities of cyanide/cyanogens; while my calculations indicate that the amount of pits present should not be dangerous, I decided to remove the pits from the liquor as a precaution, and will not include them in future batches.

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