Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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Watermelon-Lime Agua Fresca

Refresh in the shade with this delicious summer drink.

Refresh in the shade with this delicious summer drink.

Oooh yeaah. Summer is here! Here in Seattle, we have had a beautiful spring, but I’m still really excited for summer. We’ve been teased with great weather just to be rained out and chilled, week after week.

Well, summer is official now! And what could be more refreshing and summery than watermelon? How about watermelon-lime agua fresca? Eh?

I feel ashamed to admit, but it never occurred to me to make my own agua fresca (which is basically juice) until we were in India last summer. Our hotel’s breakfast buffet (the most ridiculously delicious buffet ever) always had some kind of agua fresca, and watermelon was my favorite. I ignored the “don’t eat fresh fruit unless you peel it yourself” rule when it came to this refreshing drink. And it turns out it’s easy to make at home. Yay!

Last summer I made this pretty often, and combined it with lemonade to make it special. (Note, also good with vodka…). Today I tried it with straight lime juice. The watermelon I used today wasn’t the best ever, nor were the limes. But it’s still such a good drink! I have heard adding fresh basil or cucumber are great, too, and I’ll definitely be trying that as the summer moves forward.

Not the best watermelon ever, but I tell you what, that is totally ok.

A mediocre watermelon, but I tell you what, that is totally ok when you’re making juice.

To make Watermelon-Lime Agua Fresca:

I used 1 medium sized watermelon and 3 limes. And no sugar!

Peel and cube a watermelon, and puree in the blender. Seeds are fine, they’ll be strained out in a minute. And even a little white part is fine, no need to be particular.

Blending the watermelon

Blending the watermelon

Pour the blended fruit into a strainer over a pitcher. Let drain, occasionally stirring to move the pulp from the bottom. I also press the solids a little with a back of a spoon, just to squeeze all the goodness out. You’ll need to empty the strainer occasionally to keep the liquid flowing.

It's a little messy, as watermelon is, so I advice doing this in the sink. Strain right into the pitcher.

It’s a little messy, as watermelon is, so I advice doing this in the sink. Strain right into the pitcher.

 

I squeezed the lime in at the end, then chilled the whole thing. Serve outside on a hot day, and pretend you’re on vacation. Enjoy!


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Battle of the Brandied Cherries

I've waited 6 weeks for this!

I’ve waited 6 weeks for this!

You may remember about 6 weeks ago I posted about brandied cherries. That recipe was great! I’m still enjoying them (even though the recipe says to use within 2 weeks, I’m living on the edge.) I made a different recipe at the same time. This one had to sit in the fridge for 6 weeks. I put a piece of tape with a label and a date and hid it behind the pickles.

Chelan cherries stemmed and ready for pitting. They are delicious!

Chelan cherries stemmed and ready for pitting. They are delicious!

Well, this week was Ladies’ Preservation Society (more on that soon) and we did a taste test between the two recipes. A few days later, D and I tested the cherries in 2 different drinks – sparkling wine and bourbon. The decision was clear, though not unanimous. I’ve decided to call the first recipe “Quick” and the second “Patience.”

All recipes for brandied cherries will include sugar, brandy, and cherries.

All recipes for brandied cherries will include sugar, brandy, and cherries.

In making Quick, I used half of this recipe from Imbibe. My full post on these cherries can be found here. This recipe uses sugar, brandy, vanilla, spices, lemon, and cherries (obviously.)

I got the recipe for Patience at Saveur (which I halved here). To make these, all you do is combine 1 cup sugar and 2 cups brandy, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour this over 1 lb. pitted cherries, seal in a jar, and let sit in the fridge for 6 weeks. Easy peasy. Because you aren’t heating the liquid or the fruit, the brandy takes longer to work its way into the cells of the cherries. This also means the cherries end up with a nice firm texture.

"Patience" cherries are finally ready to be opened!

“Patience” cherries are finally ready to be opened!

The Verdict

Quick cherries are softer, sweeter, and have a distinct but not overpowering brandy flavor. I have been using them for weeks, and I haven’t noticed any change in taste.

Patience cherries are firm and the alcohol flavor is a really strong. The recipe suggests serving the brandy strait up with the cherries in them. The brandy tastes good and has a lot of cherry flavor, but I would want to mix it with something to tone down the alcohol.

"Patience" above and "Quick" below - the taste test. I almost didn't have enough Quick left to test.

“Patience” above and “Quick” below – the taste test. I almost didn’t have enough Quick left to test.

The winner… it’s the Quick cherries, by golly. I would have guessed otherwise, because of delayed gratification and all that. I like the firm texture of the Patience cherries, but the alcohol flavor was too much. In anything but straight bourbon or whiskey, it dominated. I will still use these in bourbon, and am debating cooking them down and making a sauce to go with a flourless chocolate cake for an upcoming potluck. (This potluck will have lots of kids, so maybe not?)

I love seeing the bubbles stream off the cherries when they are in sparkling wines.

I love seeing the bubbles stream off the cherries when they are in sparkling wines.

Uses

I’ve been adding the cherries to drinks: Quick was delicious in a sparkling rosé and both go great with bourbon. You could also make a mixed drink and include some of the liquid. They would also go great with anything chocolate, naturally. Or, add them to ice cream or frozen yogurt for an adult dessert.

I couldn't drink much more at this point, and we were down to our last Quick cherry. Sad to see it end, but I've kept the liquid for use in other cocktails.

I couldn’t drink much at this point, and we were down to our last Quick cherry. Sad to see it end, but I’ve kept the liquid for use in other cocktails.


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Brandied Cherries

Chelan cherries stemmed and ready for pitting. They are delicious!

Chelan cherries stemmed and ready for pitting. They are delicious!

It’s cherry season at last! I have been excited about cherries since I was thinking about starting the Preservation Society and this blog. Cherries in Seattle are everything. We do all kinds of berries really well up here, and apples of course (mention of Washington Apples is required of all residents in the state.) But cherries! They are amazing, they are so sweet and tart and juicy and oh my goodness.

West Seattle farmer's market - I go to this one on Sundays and the Columbia City one on Wednesdays.

West Seattle farmer’s market – I go to this one on Sundays and the Columbia City one on Wednesdays.

Part of my excitement is that in my household, cherries are the one fruit that is 100% loved by D and me. He doesn’t love many fruits, but he loves cherries. And I do too. I tend to make a lot of cherry baked goods, and buying a cherry pitter was a turning point in my life. In fact, this year I just bought a mega 4-cherry pitter and I’m in heaven.

This farmer gave me a discount because I was buying 7 pounds.

This farmer gave me a discount because I was buying 7 pounds.

Anyway, I made cherry jam the other day (or at least, tried to) but I’ll discuss that later. It’s warm and it’s the weekend and it feels like a cocktail kind of day. Time for brandied cherries!

All recipes for brandied cherries will include sugar, brandy, and cherries.

All recipes for brandied cherries will include sugar, brandy, and cherries.

I started with another recipe, but they won’t be ready for 6 weeks. They are in the fridge, labeled with the date they’ll be ready (7/25). Patience was never my strong suit, so I found another recipe that is ready the same day. Ooh, they are tasty. And the best part? Because I’m not at a bar, where they have inventory and standards, I’m allowed 2 cherries in my drink.

Cooking on the stove

Cooking on the stove – the first recipe I used did not involve cooking. This step speeds up the cherry maceration to allow the brandy to soak in.

This was a fun project, and if you’re having houseguests or a BBQ sometime soon (ahem, 4th of July?) I highly recommend these in whiskey, sparkling wine, or soda drink. Or, how about trying them as a topping on ice cream? We had them in bourbon, and the second round we added a little of the steeping liquid to the drink as well. Bam.

The cherries get a little darker and softer in appearance when they are ready.

The cherries get a little darker and softer in appearance when they are ready.

Recipe (based on one from Imbibe Magazine, original here)

*I halved this recipe, which made 1 pint jar.

1 lb cherries (I used Chelan cherries, but use whatever sweet red cherry you have)
½ c sugar
½ c water
2 tsp lemon juice
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup brandy

Ready to be refrigerated. This color is so rich!

Ready to be refrigerated. This color is so rich!

Wash, stem, and pit the cherries.Bring all ingredients except the cherries and brandy to a boil. Reduce heat, and add cherries. Simmer 5 minutes, or until softened. Remove from heat, add brandy, and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in jars for up to 2 weeks. (I question this time limit, because the other recipe I made says 1 year. Why? I’ll be testing this.)

And the payoff: extra tasty cherries in my drink.

And the payoff: extra tasty cherries in my drink.

Check back in late July to see how the other recipe compares.