Brandied cherries are a classic in the American food canon. Made from pitted cherries, sugar, and brandy, these boozy stone fruits make for an incredible topping for vanilla ice cream, a flavorful addition to cakes, or a tasty garnish for a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
Several different fruits can be soaked in brandy for a delicious treat. Stone fruits are the most common, as these can hold their shape relatively well. It also helps that many eaux-de-vies, or fruit brandies, are already made from stone fruits. Peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots all work well, as do non-stone fruits like apples and pears. Dried fruits can also be marvelous when soaked in brandy, as they suck up the liquid readily. Try raisins, prunes, or even slices of dried and candied ginger. Just don’t use delicate fruits that are easily broken down, such as berries, which may dissolve into the brandy.
One of the reasons why brandied fruit is so delicious is because of its synchronicity. Brandy is a spirit distilled from fruit, with one of the most famous examples being Cognac, a type of brandy distilled from white grapes. Many cultures have their own forms of brandy. Applejack, America’s oldest spirit, is a brandy distilled from (you guessed it) apples.
When choosing which fruit and which brandy you want to pair together, consider complementary flavors. You could go full throttle on cherry flavor by soaking cherries in kirsch, a popular German cherry brandy. Or, soak slices of pear in Poire Williams brandy, which is often sold with a pear already inside, though this would be a struggle to remove. In southwest France, prunes are typically soaked in Armagnac brandy and often served with vanilla ice cream, and you could also use fresh plums instead of dried prunes. And if you’re able to find more adventurous brandies, you might try something like chunks of pineapple soaked in mango brandy.
How to make and use brandied fruit
There are two popular ways to make brandied fruit. The first involves lightly stewing your fruit of choice in a simple syrup of sugar and water, then adding brandy and jarring the concoction. The other method involves macerating your fruit in sugar, then adding the brandy. Once jarred, you should store your brandy-soaked fruit in a dark, cool place for at least four to six weeks, and ideally longer, so the fruit soaks up even more flavor.
Soaking fruit in brandy was originally used as a preservation method, so between the sugar and the alcohol, you shouldn’t worry about your fruit going bad. Brandied fruit will last for a couple months unrefrigerated, and it keeps for even longer in the fridge. Both the fruit and the syrup can be used for baking, cocktails, or anything else you please. Just keep in mind that while much of the alcohol will cook off if your fruit is used in baked goods, it will still be plenty boozy if consumed as-is.