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Brandied Fruits and Berries


onehsancare
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I've been looking for a recipe or guide to brandying fruit, especially berries. I've not found a consensus about the following issues:

sugar/no sugar/amount of sugar

seal immediately/age in crock

how long to macerate?

Any help would be much appreciated!

Thanks.

Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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marionberries, this summer's berry of choice.

Marionberries are a sweet-tart blackberry, developed in Marion County, Oregon. I much prefer them to boysenberries.

Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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There is a recipe in Chez Panisse Fruits. I just did a batch of sour cherries. For the cherries, I left the pit in and the stem in and placed them in a glass canning jar that had been thoroughly cleaned. Added some sugar to a very good brandy, I don't remember the proportions. Covered the cherries with the brandy. A week or so later I added some cherry syrup left over from candying cherries. Turned the jar upside down every other day or so for about a month. Transfered the now plump and dark cherries to the fridge to await cocktails. Tested one. Honey, those are not for children.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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I use about 1/3 cup sugar (this is to the tart side) ..more or less depending on your taste for sweetness... to one quart brandy or rum for fruits and berries...

I also will add a vanilla bean split sometimes

and I agree use a good quality brandy the one you like the taste of alone best ..even take a berry and eat it with a sip of the brandy ...not just for fun but you can get an idea if you got the right mix going on!

be ever so gentle with the berries

I have made a simple syrup poured it hot over a jar of berries..let it cool then added brandy when it cooled ... that worked very well and the color was great!

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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  • 2 years later...

I'm dreaming of having brandied fruit on hand this winter for quick desserts or for use with savory cooking. I've missed cherry season (this year!) so right now am looking at the stone fruit such as peaches, apricots, plums that are arriving in heaps at the farmers markets. Not a clue where to start. I posted a request for cookbook recommendations here.

But I'm also interested in knowing how to choose a good but affordable brandy for these experiments, what's the optimal liquor/sugar syrup ratio, and other important technical advice. Anyone here with any experience with this who can help?


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I just made brandied cherries today. I've made them many times in the past (we have a big cherry tree) using a medium syrup to which I added brandy, but the method I used today was far superior and gave a more intensely flavored product. I pitted 3 lbs of cherries, put them in a sauteuse with 1-1/3 c sugar, covered it, and put it on very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolved. Then I packed the cherries in pint jars with the resulting syrup, and topped it up with brandy. I probably used about 1/3 c brandy in each jar. Then I processed for 10 minutes.

I'm not a big brandy drinker (or even a small brandy drinker), so I wasn't sure what I like. I bought a bottle of E & J V.S.O.P. and a bottle of Rubi V.S.O.P. Both were in the same middle-of-the-road price range. I like the Rubi a lot better and the cherries made with it are freaking delicious and they haven't even had a chance to sit around yet. I'm interested to hear what brandy other people are using.

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Dianabanana, so no water w/ the cherries and sugar?

My limited research thus far sees a divide between recipes that require the brandied fruit to be processed and those that do not, usually noting that the alcohol is a preservative. it's tempting to skip the processing step if it isn't needed.

Thanks for the brandy recommendation, I'll look for the Rubi but would also love to hear what others are using, esp. with peaches or apricots.


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Nope, no water--that's the beauty of it. It's just cherry juice, sugar, and brandy. The cherries release enough juice to fill the jar 2/3 of the way and then you top it off with the brandy. It's exactly what I always had in mind when making brandied cherries but I didn't know how to get there.

I didn't make it up--it's from Linda Ziedrich's new book, The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. I really like her Joy of Pickling, too (I'm making the Russian Pickled Cherries from that today).

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Maybe you've already looked over recipes for Vieux Garcon, but here's my adaptation of a recipe from Georgeanne Brennan. You layer fruits in a big jar as they come into season, and let them sit in a syrup of brandy and sugar. No water. The apricots and peaches prepared this way are superb. I thought they tasted best in the whole jar of varied fruits that I made.

1- Prep the fruit of the moment. Ideally, the fruit is ripe and unblemished. Underripe fruit is better than overripe fruit.

Cherries: stemmed

Apricots: whole or pitted; halved or quartered

Plums: whole or pitted; halved or quartered

Peaches: peeled, pitted; halved or quartered

Nectarines: pitted; halved or quartered

Grapes: stemmed

Pears: peeled, cored; cut into 1" slices

Apples: peeled, cored; cut into 1" slices

2- In a nonreactive pan large enough to hold all your fruit of the moment, combine equal parts of brandy and sugar. There should be enough brandy and sugar to later cover the fruit. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 2 to 3 mins.

3- Add the fruit and simmer about 2 to 3 mins.

4- With a slotted spoon, lightly pack the fruit into a large jar. Pour the hot syrup over the fruit to cover completely. If the fruit floats to the top, don't worry. The fruit will sink as it absorbs sugar. Cover the jar.

5- Store in a cool dark place. Each fruit must ferment for at least 4 weeks before it is ready to eat. If necessary, open the jar every few days to let gases escape.

6- As the summer progresses, repeat this process with each fruit as it comes into season, adding fruit & pouring more hot syrup into the jar each time. When your last addition of fruit has fermented for at least 4 weeks, all the fruit in the jar is ready for eating. The fruits will keep 4 months or more in a cool, dark place; or you can refrigerate them. These fruits taste great with ice cream, poundcake, or biscotti.

Other people have said this, & so will I, use a good brandy that is drinkable. It really makes a difference.

Vieux Garcon means "bachelor" in French. This preserve is called "bachelor" because (choose the one you like best):

-- It's easy enough for a bachelor to make.

-- There's enough brandy in it for a lonely bachelor to drown his sorrows.

-- The packed fruits resemble a bachelor's apartment, everything piled on top of everything else, and nothing ever put away.

Edited to clarify: You can put fruit and syrup into the jar at any time. However, each fruit must ferment for at least 4 weeks before it is ready for eating.

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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Also check out Rumtopf, which is similar to Vieux Garcon but with rum, and no simmering. I'm actually off right now to go buy a crock for my very first Rumtopf. Between this and the brandied cherries, it's going to be a very boozy winter this year!

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Both the Vieux Garçon and Rumtopt sound wonderful. I like the idea of being able to add fruit as the season evolves. And neither requires hot water or steam pressure processing, which for me would be a disincentive. Yet another benefit of the booze!


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I wasn't planning to put up any Vieux Garcon this year, but I felt inspired by this thread, so I started a small batch.

The beginnings of a bachelor's apartment: Rainier cherries, apricots, white nectarines, pluots, Santa Rosa plums.

VieuxGarcon_2101.jpg

I tried St Remy VSOP brandy for this recipe ($13 at BevMo). It has good flavor, but I still wasn't satisfied, so I broke out the Hennessey VS Cognac from the cabinet & tried that. The cognac tastes just great. :laugh: I'll probably use a combination of the brandy and cognac in later additions of fruit. I'm not going to make scads of this brandied fruit. I've learned from experience that a little brandied fruit goes a long way in desserts, or even as a condiment to savory dishes.

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Heidi, I'm looking through the index now. I see some recipes for fruit (strawberries, peaches, prunes) steeped in wine. Are you referring to those? Have you made them?

Paula Wolfert's "Mediterranean Cooking" has a recipe for peach wine, which I'd forgotten about til now, but it always sounded intriguing.


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So I started my first batch of vieux garcon/rumptopf. The recipe couldn't be more fool-proof or forgiving. But still, a couple of lessons learned:

- don't use very ripe fruit. It will turn to mush once it hits the hot syrup--as I discovered with some of my plums. djyee100 counsels this above and I should have paid attention. My solution: pluck out the intact fruit, add to the canning jar, and strain the remaining syrup /fruit mush through a chinois, pressing to get all the fruit juices. Tasty, tasty.

- it takes less sugar/cognac syrup to cover the fruit than you would think. The fruit releases a lot of juice and it all adds up. I ended up with more syrup than I needed to cover the fruit. But I did like the results of the 1 part sugar/1 part brandy ratio for the syrup--not too sweet, not too much alcohol.

So here's my first batch. Yellow and white peaches, nectarines, and plums. The lovely color comes from the plums:

Vieux Garcon-1.JPG

I do wish I'd done this before cherry season ended. I am tempted to buy some cherries at my local over-priced grocery store. But that does defeat the purpose, doesn't it?

Has anyone added other flavorings to these preserves? I am thinking about vanilla beans, candied ginger, cardomom pods, etc. Any good combinations that you've tried?


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I wondered about that as well. Most recipes call for including the alcohol to the sugar syrup while it's cooking, a few use the brandy to top off the fruit cooked in sugar syrup afterwards. From what I've read, I think the high alcohol level of brandy/cognac is what helps preserve the fruit safely without using the usual canning/water bath process. That argues for not cooking off the alcohol entirely. Does anyone know if this is the case?


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I've had this question as well, although I've always cooked Vieux Garcon per the recipe. I contacted Georgeanne Brennan, the author of the recipe, with this question. This was her response by email:

My understanding is that alcohol toughens the fruit, but that was told

to me anecdotally, so best contact Harold McGee!

So I emailed Harold McGee, and this was his reply:

Sorry but I'm on the road, don't have a definitive answer at my fingertips, and don't have time right now to check into it. My guess is that it has as much to do with flavor preference as anything else--as you say other recipes don't cook the alcohol, and cooking will lower the alcohol level and take the edge off, as well as create some other cooked flavors.

Flavor preference makes sense to me, especially if people use cheap brandy to make Vieux Garcon. Burning off some of the alcohol makes the fruit and syrup more palatable. Also, just my guess, I think cooking the fruit helps keep its shape and color. If I remember correctly, someone who made rumtopf had problems with the fruit disintegrating and turning a grayish color. As for the keeping qualities of Vieux Garcon, even with some of the alcohol burned off, the preserve keeps well for the time stated in the recipe. The substantial amt of sugar in the recipe is a preservative as well.

Edited To Add:

I think the high alcohol level of brandy/cognac is what helps preserve the fruit safely without using the usual canning/water bath process.

You're not thinking of botulism, are you? This preserve is not sealed or canned to create the anaerobic conditions necessary for botulism. At worst, the preserve might mold and smell, and you will throw it out. With the amts of brandy and sugar in this mix, I've never known that to happen.

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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djyee100, thanks so much for doing this homework for us!

Recently, when opening the jar lid as instructed, I remembered this line in your earlier post:

Each fruit must ferment for at least 4 weeks before it is ready to eat. If necessary, open the jar every few days to let gases escape.

I read it, but the point evidently didn't sink in. Fermentation? gases? In my fruit?

Well, my Vieux Garcon is quite effervescent these days. Had you not mentioned this, I would have assumed it was poisonous and tossed it. How does the fermentation affect the flavor? I've not experienced this before.


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My Vieux Garcon has a few bubbles if I shake it, but not a lot since I use a large jar with a rubber gasket--the gases release gradually. As for fermentation and flavor, VG tastes like brandied fruit to me. Anybody else make VG or rumtopf?

My fruits have absorbed sugar by now and they are settling down towards the bottom of the jar. How are yours doing?

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  • 1 month later...

After 4 weeks the preserve should taste well-brandied and the fruits should have sunk low in the jar from all the sugar they have absorbed. The preserve I made a couple wks before yours has come out fine. I'm actually thinking of refrigerating the jar to slow down the preserving process, so that my preserve keeps more of the fresh fruit flavor.

Neither I nor a friend who makes this recipe for vieux garcon has experienced your problem with "effervescence" or fizziness in the preserve. I speculate that there's too little brandy and white sugar in your mix, so that the sugar in the fruit has begun to ferment on its own. In step 2 of the recipe ("2- In a nonreactive pan large enough to hold all your fruit of the moment, combine equal parts of brandy and sugar. There should be enough brandy and sugar to later cover the fruit..."), I always put enough brandy and sugar in the pan so that the fruit is immediately covered when I drop the fruit into the pan. It sounds like you were letting the fruit simmer and release its juices, so that the juices were counted in as the quantity of liquid to cover. IOW, your preserve probably contains less brandy and white sugar than mine does, and proportionately more fruit sugar in the mix. It's the fruit sugar that's fermenting--I think. I admit the recipe was a little vague on the quantities of brandy and white sugar to put in the pan (so was the original recipe I adapted :rolleyes: ).

This blog has an adapted recipe for vieux garcon, with quantities given for brandy and sugar. Perhaps it will be useful for guidance.

http://creativeliving.10.forumer.com/viewtopic.php?t=3622&sid=801627e7d8f1ae9975f110aa3fd295ca

So what do you do now? If I were you, and unwilling to toss the jar, I would cook up a batch of brandy and sugar, and add it to the jar. Maybe that will stop the effervescence if you put in more preservatives. As long as the fruit smells and tastes OK to you, I'm assuming it is OK to eat.

Or you can start over with some fall fruits, apples, pears, and grapes. The late-summer peaches and plums are looking good at the market here. Perhaps you can add in some of those as well. Let me know how it goes.

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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...I speculate that there's too little brandy and white sugar in your mix, so that the sugar in the fruit has begun to ferment on its own. In step 2 of the recipe ("2- In a nonreactive pan large enough to hold all your fruit of the moment, combine equal parts of brandy and sugar. There should be enough brandy and sugar to later cover the fruit..."), I always put enough brandy and sugar in the pan so that the fruit is immediately covered when I drop the fruit into the pan. It sounds like you were letting the fruit simmer and release its juices, so that the juices were counted in as the quantity of liquid to cover. IOW, your preserve probably contains less brandy and white sugar than mine does, and proportionately more fruit sugar in the mix. It's the fruit sugar that's fermenting--I think. I admit the recipe was a little vague on the quantities of brandy and white sugar to put in the pan (so was the original recipe I adapted :rolleyes: ).

That's exactly what I did, you describe and diagnose my error precisely. By habit, I tend to cut back on sugar in recipes where the quantity seems to be flexible. Obviously, in this case I made the wrong call, the amount of sugar called for wasn't just a matter of taste, it was about the chemistry. It's worth my trying to bring it back into balance with an additional hit of alcohol/sugar syrup. But if not, fingers crossed for trying another batch with fall fruit.

Thanks so much, I'll keep you posted.


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