preserved cherries in syrup

i recently reread one of my favourite books from childhood- gerald durrell’s my family and other animals. set primarily on corfu this book (and the other two in the trilogy) tells wild and exciting animal-related tales about the various escapades that budding naturalist gerry got up to, often to the exasperation of his flamboyant family and neighbours, or the delight of the other animal-loving people he meets during his childhood.

while remembering the humour of his stories (i’ve never forgotten his puppies “widdle” and “puke” or cyclops, his pet owl) and the beautiful pink, white and lemon villas that the family moved between (in search of indoor plumbing and space to cope with an ever-increasing number of exotic houseguests of the two and more-legged varieties), the bit i’d forgotten was the tales of food. there is always a picnic in the offing, a party being planned or local neighbours for gerry to visit and eat with as he explores the island.

this, along with a bounty of cherries, prompted me to make preserved cherries, which tessa kiros describes as “something that many greek and cypriot people have in their fridge and offer to visitors with a glass of ice cold water or coffee. they are eaten straight off the spoon and some people then like to stir their syrupy spoon into their glass of water.”

i’ve been enjoying these as an accompaniment to moist citrus and almond cakes, with fresh summer berries, or with ice cream. they are also very delicious (and slightly more picturesque!) in a cocktail such as the pictured cherry blossom (an improved variation, in my opinion, on the recipe previously given). it’s also a good way to rescue slightly-sour cherries.

tessa kiros’ preserved cherries

1kg cherries

300g caster sugar

juice of 1 lemon

pit the cherries to remove the stones, then rinse them. put the sugar, lemon juice and 250ml water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. add the cherries and when they come to the boil. cover with a piece of greaseproof paper to keep them submerged and simmer for 6-8 minutes, turning them now and then to make sure they are covered. remove the pan from the heat (the cherries must not be too soft) and, using a slotted spoon, remove the cherries into a suitable preserving jar.

continue boiling the syrup for about 10 minutes or until it is reduced by half. strain through muslin over the cherries and seal the jar when cool. the cherries should be covered by the syrup. these are normally served straight from the fridge with a glass of iced water to cut through their beautiful over-sweetness. keep in the fridge and use within a month.

cherry blossom 2

shake, with ice, ¾ shot cherry brandy, ¾ shot kirsch, ½ shot cointreau, ¼ shot preserved cherry syrup and 1¼ shot freshly squeezed lemon juice. strain and serve in a martini glass, with a preserved cherry at the bottom.