Chery brandy

There are many recipes for making alcohol in Penn’s manuscript recipe books. But most would require the average home cook to purchase complex equipment and invest quite a lot of time, energy (and, dare I say, courage?) in their execution. From recipes for “braggart liquor” (spiced beer), “sperit of rasberrys” (raspberry wine), and “Meade to make according to Queen Elizabeth receipt” (the “Queen’s” mead) in Penn’s manuscripts, to the infamous recipe for “cock ale” held in the Folger Shakespeare Library collections, working with spirits can challenge even the most adventurous cooks. (And we’re the cooks who made  fish custard!) There are some approachable beverage recipes in the archive. Our recipe for could possett was one, “Chery brandy” from Ms. Codex 1601 is another.

The Recipe

cherry brandy

Chery brandy

to a gallone of Brandy one dossin of blake
cheryes, pound the stons in a mortar to
brake them put them into an earthin pot
with the brandy stir them once a day
for nine dayes stop them uery close.
then straine it and squeise the chereys
[a]s drey as you can, then bottle it.

This is a very simple recipe. Cherries mingle with alcohol and magic happens. Other than reducing the volume a bit, we only made one major change: We didn’t break the cherry pits or add them to the liquor. Cherry pits carry low-levels of toxins, like cyanide. We may be fearless in the kitchen, but we see no need to experiment with known poisons, whatever flavor they may impart to a beverage.

Our Recipe

2 c brandy

6 cherries (washed, pits removed, and halved)

Put brandy and cherries in a well-sealed glass container. Place in a dark, cool area and stir daily for nine days.

The results

Over the nine days the cherries infused the brandy, the color of the concoction slowly, incrementally deepened to a rich red. Chery brandy is beautiful to look at in the bottle and in the glass.

Straight up, chery brandy is a bracing beverage. Like any brandy, it is a warming drink with strong flavors. The cherries added a pleasing, rich sweetness. After the initial sipping, we added an ice cube, bitters, and lemon peel to create a mellower drink, a sort of “chery brandy old fashioned.” We think this would be a great way to savor a hint of summer cherry deliciousness on a cold winter night. But it’s high summer, so we took it one step further and added some ginger ale to the mix. This final result created a lovely refreshing cocktail.

To make a “Chery brandy old fashioned”

2 oz cherry brandy
ice (one giant cube or 2 small cubes)
slice of lemon peel
dash bitters

Put ice in a rocks glass. Add brandy. Season with bitters. Garnish with lemon peel.

To make a “Chery brandy fizz”

2 oz cherry brandy
6 oz ginger ale (preferably high-quality, sweetened with cane sugar)
Lemon slice
ice

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add brandy and ginger ale. Garnish with lemon.

With late-summer stone fruits flooding the farmer’s markets, we’re curious to see how this recipe would work with apricots, plums, and peaches. Other base alcohols could add unique flavors to the mix (plum vodka? peach rum?). Melissa Clark proposed a related method for preserving summer fruits in alcohol in the New York Times  a few years ago. But, as you now know, mixing fruit and alcohol is a very old idea.

 

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Pease Pods of Puff Paste (or small fruit pies in disguise)

Even in cooking, appearances can be deceiving. Following a long tradition of performative food preparation from the ancient world through Tudor banqueting, early modern cooks sometime playfully disguised food as other food. We tried a recipe for “Pease Pods of Puff Paste” from Ms Codex 631 – a recipe that in fact contains no peas at all! These sweet little pea-pod-shaped, hand-formed fruit pies were easy to make and very tasty.

pease pods

The Recipe

Pease Pods of Puff Paste

Take some puff paste & role it out thin & lay in some cherries or any other preserv
-ed fruit in the fashion of pease & fashion your crust like pease pods & cut them with
a rowell & fry them with fresh butter then strew sugar on them & serve them up

This is a very simple recipe enlivened by creative presentation. Puff pastry and fresh or preserved fruit are combined to mimic peas nestled in their protective pods. We used fresh cherries from our local farmers’ market because we thought that they would create the distinctive pea-bumps the recipe strives to recreate. A “rowell” is a wheel or disc that would have been used to cut the pastry; to streamline the process and in an (ultimately somewhat futile) effort to prevent messy overflow, we cut the pastry into smaller squares and rolled each one around a line-up of cherries. Finally, instead of frying our pastry pods in butter, we baked them in a low oven for even cooking.

 

Our Recipe

These instructions are for 6 “Pease Pods.” Adjust fruit and pastry amounts as needed.

1 sheet puff pastry (store-bought or homemade)
18 cherries (or a similar amount of other fresh or preserved berries)
flour (for rolling out pastry)
sugar (for sprinkling)

In advance, defrost store-bought puff pastry or prepare homemade puff pastry. (We used store-bought, but for homemade Marissa prefers Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Rough Puff Pastry,” duplicated here.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or greasing it with butter.

Wash and pit the cherries. Roll out the puff pastry until it’s thin but still workable. Divide sheet into 6  rectangles with a knife. Place three cherries in a line down the center of each piece and wrap pastry to form a “pea pod.”

Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes, until pastry is puffy and golden.

 

The Result

They really did look like pea pods on their way into the oven, but the puffiness of the pastry pod overwhelmed the pea-like qualities of the cherries within. This may have been caused by our modern store-bought puff pastry, our use of fresh (larger) rather than preserved (smaller) cherries, our decision to roll the pastry around the berries instead of enclosing the berries between a top and bottom layer of pastry, or our choice to bake, rather than fry, the prepared pods. We’re curious to see if you, dear readers, produce more pea-pod-like results with this same recipe!

Although out of the oven these little pies did not look like pea-pods, they were very tasty, easy to prepare, and a great way to transform fresh summer fruit into a quick dessert. We think the addition of a simple egg wash would improve their presentation. Served with whipped cream, a summer fool, or ice cream, “pease pods” would add a sweet ending to any July or August meal.