There’s just no substitute for summer produce. You can import stuff from halfway around the world, go for greenhouse-grown items or hit up your farmers markets in off months, but the intangible deliciousness of a peak summer peach or cherry simply isn’t something you can fake. To food lovers, it’s their solemn duty to pounce on perfect fruit and do everything they can to preserve it so it lasts into the coming months. But really, how much jam can a person eat? The solution? By preserving your fruit in liquor, you not only keep it from going bad, but also end up with a delicious cocktail enhancement as well.
Why Alcohol? Because Fruit and Liquor Are Great Friends
Jarring jams, preserves or other items all takes the same process: Sterilizing the jars beforehand, and then taking great care to seal them afterwards to create an anaerobic environment to prevent bacteria from spoiling your prized produce. Alcohol has that problem solved without even trying, as the higher proof of things like vodka, gin and other spirits will kill the bacteria all by themselves. Another bonus: No endless boiling, much less concern about germs, and a whole heck of a lot less mess – plus your bar now has an artisanal element to it.
What Can You Preserve?
For the most part, the answer to that is almost anything. Peaches, cherries, strawberries, grapes and the like all make for perfect preservation, and even more delicate fruits like raspberries and blackberries will be suspended in time once introduced to a bath of brandy or other liquor. For larger stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums, cutting them into slices is advisable for a few reasons, the first being that you can then utilize the pieces when you want them as opposed to bobbing out a whole fruit. Strawberries should be hulled first and can be halved or quartered if you prefer, while cherries and smaller berries can go in whole.
The downside for those with either not much patience or not much storage space is that in order to soak up the liquor, most of these fruits will take 3+ months to hit that initial stage of absorption. The upside, however, is that they can basically last indefinitely as long as you keep the fruit fully submerged beneath the liquid. Otherwise, if a rogue nectarine is popping up above liquor level, it will be exposed to oxygen and could begin to decompose, which can then ruin the container’s entire contents.
The Ultimate Cocktail Garnish
Say you have a go-to drink of choice. Perhaps you’re an Old Fashioned aficionado, or you have a serious penchant for the perfect gin and tonic. Using your own personal preferences is a great way to figure out what you should be preserving. If you’re the aforementioned Old Fashioned fan, cherries preserved in bourbon or brandy will make for a mean garnish. Want to go one-step closer? Smoke the cherries first to give them a whole new level of depth, and then preserve them. Think about what will pair with your favorite libation, and get creative. Throw some peppercorns into that jar of peaches soaking in gin, or a sprig of rosemary into your brandy-infused plums.
A Buzz-Worthy Gift
It’s quite possible that while you were swooping in on your farmer’s market score of oh-so-perfect strawberries, you may have gone overboard in terms of quantity. Whether it was a too-good-to-pass-up sale, or they were just that good, having too much of a good thing can be possible when it’s perishable. In these instances, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others are generally always delighted when suddenly gifted a nice glass jar full of high-proof fruit. And, because of the time needed to properly absorb the liquor, think about it: Perfect summer fruit + three or four months = holiday gifts.