Cherry Spoon Sweet

Cherry spoon sweet is a wonderful way to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. The flavor is so intense that one or two teaspoonfuls are usually enough to let you return to a diet of celery or baby carrots without feeling cheated.

The only serious drawback to this recipe is that you really need a cherry pitter. Spoon sweet is normally made with fresh sour cherries, but sweet cherries work fine too. Fresh cherries have pits in them, and the pits are virtually impossible to remove from the fruit without a pitter. You either have to buy a pitter or ask your friends if they have one they are willing to lend.
Cherries with pitterWe are fortunate to have such a friend. Rich and his wife Audrey bought a neat pitter that fits on top of a standard Mason jar. You just set the pitter on top of a pint jar, secure it with a canning ring and start pitting your cherries. The pits fall into the jar, making the operation neat and clean.

Spoon sweets probably originated in areas surrounding the eastern Mediterranean. Today they are popular in Egypt, Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and Russia. They are a variety of preserve that may be made with many different fruits and even with some vegetables and flowers. Once they have been cooked in the thick syrup, spoon sweets can be canned and stored like jellies and jams so it is possible that they were invented by people who hated to watch fresh fruits go to waste when there were more than could be consumed when they were in season.

If you are like me, you will enjoy making and sharing this lovely dessert with friends and relatives. Give it a try. If it is too sweet for you by the spoonful, garnish a dish of ice cream with some or spread it on your toast at breakfast.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. cherries
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T lemon juice

PROCEDURE:

Wash and remove the stems and pit the cherries and spread half of them in a medium-sized glass or stainless steel bowl. Sprinkle one cup of sugar over the cherries. Spread the rest of the cherries over the sugar, cover them with the second cup of sugar and gently pour a cup of cold water into the bowl. Tip the bowl to make sure that all the sugar has been moistened.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator for about twelve hours. Take the bowl from the refrigerator and stir the cherries to make sure that the sugar has mixed with the water and cherries. Stir gently to keep from crushing any cherries. Pour the cherries and juice into a three quart saucepan. Set the pan over high heat until the mixture begins to boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer the cherries for twenty-five minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that forms. Gently stir in the vanilla extract and simmer the cherries for another fifteen minutes.

Put a couple of saucers into the freezer after you stir in the vanilla. When the cherries have simmered the fifteen minutes, take one of the chilled saucers from the freezer and drip two or three drops of juice from a spoon on to the saucer. If the juice is the right consistency, after a few seconds it will barely run when you tip the saucer a little.

This resembles the test used to check if jelly is done. In this case, however, you are testing whether you have a thick syrup. If the drops are runny, continue simmering the cherries for another three minutes, then test again.

When the juice passes the drip test, stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice and simmer for two more minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and set the pan aside to cool.

After the cherries are at room temperature, pour them into a container with a good lid. A quart canning jar works fine.

Store your cherry sweet in a cool cabinet or pantry and serve it by teaspoonfuls in small dessert dishes or over ice cream or yogurt. It will keep several days without refrigeration.

NOTES: Be as careful as you can to keep from mashing the cherries. Part of the charm of this sweet is that the fruit retains its identity in the syrup.

The cherry pitter occasionally misses the pit, so you should be cautious when eating cherry sweet. I have found that it helps to position the cherry with the stem scar upwards towards the plunger.

Mom’s Hot Buttered Rum

Over the years I have enjoyed many different versions of this traditional winter drink, but Mom’s Hot Buttered Rum is still my favorite. I remember having my first small and very weak taste of this drink when I was seven or eight years old. We moved into the country shortly after my seventh birthday, and I remember sitting in front of the wood and coal heating stove in the living room of that small house feeling very grown up as I shared a holiday cup with Mom and Dad.

Mom stored a pint bottle of brandy in a kitchen cabinet that she used to make hot toddies for anyone with a bad cold in the winter. For us kids, her recipe was a tablespoon of brandy, two tablespoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons of sugar, a cup of boiling water and a dash or two of nutmeg. After we had finished our medicine, she would rub our chests with Vicks VapoRub, help us into warm pajamas and send us to bed. As I recall, her cure worked pretty well.

Her recipe for hot buttered rum was even simpler than the one for her toddies. She bought a pint of rum for it before Christmas every year. I make it today with unsalted butter, but Mom used regular salted butter, and it tastes good with either kind. Here is how to make an eight ounce cup of that wonderfully warming holiday drink.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups hot water
1 1/2 oz. (1 jigger) rum
1 T unsalted butter
1 T brown sugar
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg

PROCEDURE:

Make sure that the butter is at room temperature.

Bring two cups of water to boiling and fill a cup with hot water. When the cup is hot to the touch, empty out the water and put the butter, brown sugar and rum into the cup. Add enough hot water to fill the the cup and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Top with dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir and enjoy.

NOTES: Feel free to experiment with the quantities of butter and sugar, but my advice is not to increase the amount of rum. These warmers are treacherous.