Or not. Yeah, more like not.
Life is actually far from a being a bowl of cherries. Cherries are pretty, bright & usually perfect. Life is not. For one measly little example, I had an awesome photo of the cherries in the bag, looking all perky & red. And my camera deleted it. Or actually, I deleted it. By accident. *sigh* So that photo is from a website, I can’t take credit for it. I could’ve had a lovely picture of the actual cherries I used for the preserves, if I wasn’t such a knucklehead. Boo. An even better example is Hurricane Irene with her bitch-ass self. She placed 2 million plus people without power on the east coast of the U.S. alone. She caused many deaths in the continental United States, not counting the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, and the other places she blasted with her relentlessly slow-moving winds, rain & tornadoes. She battered us here in NY but we were lucky she was a tropical storm by the time she got here, or else things would’ve been way worse. As it is, so many people have died or are missing, let alone the fact almost half a million people on Long Island are still without power, and tons in New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Carolina, etc. If she was a person, I’d like to punch her right in the face. So no, life is not always a bowl of cherries.
But it’s okay, because while life may not always be as perfect as a bowl of beautiful cherries, you can eat a bowl of cherries. Or make cherry preserves. Better yet, make cherry preserves with an added kick- vanilla vodka.
(I came up with that part after realizing I deleted all the pictures on my memory card. Ha. Although this jam & the resulting cobbler was on my mind too… and I also figured we all needed a drink after Irene)
Cherries were on sale for $1.99 a pound. A DOLLAR NINETY-NINE A POUND. Normally, these particular cherries, Northwest cherries, are $4.99 a pound. How the hell could I pass that up? I could not. So I didn’t. I bought them & I made a small batch of preserves with some vanilla vodka. The vodka really only adds a subtle flavor, don’t be afraid of it. It’s not overwhelming or insanely vodka-y at all, it’s not even overwhelmingly vanilla-y. But add a little & go from there if you’re skurred. Or use vanilla extract or some vanilla bean seeds. Or omit that altogether, the preserves would stand just fine alone.
Be sure to wear gloves, dark colored clothing or a dark colored apron while doing this. Dark cherry juice splatters all over the place, and it stains.
I’m really bad with the foam-skimming thing, clearly
VANILLA VODKA CHERRY PRESERVES
Makes 1½ pints or 3 8 oz. jars
- 3 pounds dark red cherries, pitted
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 4-6 tablespoons vanilla/French vanilla flavored vodka (any decent tasting, good quality vodka is fine; Skyy, GEOЯGI, Absolut, Grey Goose, etc)
- Put the cherries in a large, non-reactive pot on the stove. Using your (gloved) fingers, mash & crush them, but not totally, to release the juice.
- Add the sugar and lemon juice, and stir well. Turn heat on low and cook until sugar dissolves.
- Turn up the heat (I like to play with fire & go pretty high, but I don’t turn my back on it & stir when needed) and boil for around 25-30 minutes.
- Check to see if it’s set. If so, skim the foam and stir in the vodka very gently. Ladle into hot jars, wipe rims, place lids/bands and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. Let cool. Refrigerate after opening.
This can also be made & eaten right away, without the processing. One of my jars was eaten almost in totality as soon as it was cooled; spread on a few pieces of 9-grain bread. Generously. The rest? Well…
The cherries are so perfect they look fake!
Not one to leave well enough alone, I thought of Black Forest cake. I was going to just make some chocolate cake & spread this in between the layers, then frost it with chocolate frosting, whipped cream & some big, fat cherries. But I’m not a cake person. I like cake; don’t get me wrong. Who doesn’t like cake? But as the title of my website clearly states, I’m more a cupcake gal. So Black Forest cupcakes it is! Unlike German Chocolate cake, which is just named for Sam German’s Baker’s chocolate, Black Forest cake is an actual German dessert. So for my great-grandma Frances Sonnanburg (nee Hebrank), a.k.a. “Midge” (seen below with my grandfather as a two-year old baby in 1920), the infamous German baker of the family, here are my individually-sized versions of Black Forest cake. Deutschland über alles!
Black Forest gateau (British English) and Black Forest cake (American English and Australian English) are the English names for the German dessert Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (pronounced [ˈʃvaʁt͡svɛldɐ ˈkɪʁʃˌtɔʁtə]), literally “Black Forest cherry torte“.
Typically, Black Forest cake consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings. In some European traditions sour cherries are used both between the layers and for decorating the top. Traditionally, Kirschwasser (a clear liquor distilled from tart cherries) is added to the cake, although other liquors are also used (such as rum, which is common in Austrian recipes). In the United States, Black Forest cake is most often prepared without alcohol. German statutory interpretation states Kirschwasser as a mandatory ingredient, otherwise the cake is legally not allowed to be marketed as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.
The cake is named not directly after the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) mountain range in southwestern Germany but rather from the specialty liquor of that region, known as Schwarzwälder Kirsch(wasser) and distilled from tart cherries. This is the ingredient, with its distinctive cherry pit flavor and alcoholic content, that gives the cake its flavour. Cherries, cream, and Kirschwasser were first combined in the form of a dessert in which cooked cherries were served with cream and Kirschwasser, while a cake combining cherries, biscuit and cream (but without Kirschwasser) probably originated in Germany.
Today, the Swiss canton of Zug is world-renowned for its Zuger Kirschtorte, a biscuit-based cake which formerly contained no Kirschwasser. A version from the canton of Basel also exists. The confectioner Josef Keller (1887–1981) claimed to have invented Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in its present form in 1915 at the then prominent Café Agner in Bad Godesberg, now a suburb of Bonn about 500 km north of the Black Forest. This claim, however, has never been substantiated.
Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte was first mentioned in writing in 1934. At the time it was particularly associated with Berlin but was also available from high-class confectioners in other German, Austrian, and Swiss cities. In 1949 it took 13th place in a list of best-known German cakes, and since that time Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte has become world-renowned.
Filling the cupcakes with cherry preserves…
What a great name that is, Black Forest. Anyway, these cupcakes are really crazy-simple. Dark Chocolate cupcakes, filled with this jam, topped with thick heavy cream-based confectioner’s buttercream and drenched in a chocolate sauce, then crowned with a cherry. Okay, they don’t sound simple. But they are. I promise. Just as simple as the preserves are to make, the cupcakes are. Use any chocolate cupcake recipe you like, use any vanilla frosting you like, fill ’em up with jam in any way you like & frost ’em however you like. Another option: cut the cupcakes in half & sandwich them back together using the preserves, then frost them. You could also use whipped cream instead of frosting.
These are not only some of the prettiest cupcakes I ever made, but definitely some of the simplest. And also the most gratifying, since they were made from scratch literally start to finish. I think great-grandma Midge & her German ancestors would certainly approve.