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Food + Cooking

A Wild-Cherry Revelation

When life hands you a cherry tree…
cherry trees

Life, no matter what they tell you, is not a bowl of cherries. But occasionally you’ll get lucky enough to stumble upon a whole tree of them. That happened to me recently, during a rare two-day heat wave inside an otherwise gray and rainy summer.

Walking through the woods, I had my eyes on the ground, waiting for something, anything to jump out and cry, “Eat me!” All of a sudden, there it was: a tiny little fruit, shiny and almost black in color, attached to a long, skinny stem. It had been half eaten. The birds also had heard the wild cherries’ cry.

I cast my eyes skyward. There, dangling about 12 feet above me, hung a constellation of perfectly ripe fruit. I was going to need a ladder.

Half an hour later, I was teetering atop an old A-frame-style ladder that I’d found in the wagon shed at the farm, plucking one tiny cherry at a time. I popped one in my mouth. It tasted great but was mostly pit. Not the kind of cherry you make a pie with.

It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon, plucking little wild cherries, but an hour later, I only had about two cups’ worth. I packed the ladder away and washed the fruit.

I put the cherries in a plastic quart container and mashed them with a muddler. Their juice was blood red, and the little splashes that escaped the container stained the countertop crimson. I poured vodka on top of the cherries, pits and all, and kept it covered for a week.

Yesterday I peeled back the lid and was hit square in the face with a cherry bomb. The alcohol macerated the fruit, extracting its sweet-tart essence. I strained the elixir and added sugar syrup to taste.

There’s a lesson here, and it is indeed about life: When you’re handed a wild cherry tree, make a cherry cordial.