bite - Krieken op jenever
If you live a bit outside a city, chances are your neighbours came over recently with a big bag of freshly picked sour cherries. This countryside tradition of sharing the overabundant fruit from your own backyards is still very much alive in Flanders. But what to do with a few kilos of sour cherries? Why, soak them in jenever
Cherries and jenever, or krieken op jenever, are a real treat in Flanders, especially because it takes several months of patience before the sour cherries are sweet, potent and ready to eat. Many Flemish people get nostalgic when they think of krieken op jenever, and almost immediately begin to recount stories of sneaking into the cellar as a kid, just to taste a cherry or two from the irresistible pot. (It does look a lot like candy after all.)
The recipe for sour cherries in jenever is very simple and has been passed down through many generations, thanks to grandmothers across the region.
1kilogram sour cherries (not overly ripe)
300 grams sugar 1 litre jenever (or a similar pure grain alcohol of at least 35%)
Wash the cherries, remove their stems and inspect them carefully – one bad cherry could ruin the entire pot. Poke small holes in each one with a toothpick so they can better absorb the jenever. Pat the cherries dry.
Using a two-litre glass canning jar with a good seal, fill with alternating layers of sugar and cherries. When the jar is full, add the jenever all the way to the top and close it off. Set the jar on a bright windowsill for a week to allow all the sugar to fully dissolve into the jenever. Give it a good shake every day. Finally, set the cherries in a cool, dark place for four to six months (a cellar works perfectly).
Surprise your guests after a winter dinner party with the festive jar filled with cherries that have turned soft, maroon and wrinkly after months of swimming in sugary alcohol. The jenever, now a beautiful ruby-red, is infused with cherry flavour and delicious to drink on its own. But the best way to serve it is in a glass with a small spoon, half cherries and half jenever. Or wait until the following summer and pour the cherries over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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