Today we're participating in the Unearthed Blog Party to celebrate the release of Alexandra Risen's new memoir Unearthed: How an Abandoned Garden Taught Me to Accept and Love My Parents. We'll be sharing a brief review of the book as well as one of the recipes the author shares at the end of each chapter.
Since Friday July 22nd is International Can It Forward Day I thought we'd tackle the recipe for Sour Cherry Liqueur found in one of the early chapters. It technically doesn't require any canning, but it does use a half-gallon Mason Jar—besides, any recipe that starts off with a combination of cherries and vodka is bound to be amazing. It's a shame I'll have to wait so long for the first taste, patience has never been my strong suit.
Sour Cherry Liqueur
1 pound fresh sour cherries, stems and pits removed (see notes)
3 cups vodka or grain alcohol (80 proof)
1½ cups sugar
- Clean and pit cherries and add to a 2-quart Mason jar or other glass or ceramic container. Add Vodka and mix thoroughly. Cover. Let macerate for 4 weeks at room temperature. Stir daily for the first week, weekly afterward, with a wooden or non-metal spoon.
- After 4 weeks, add sugar, stir thoroughly, and cover. Let macerate for another 4 weeks. Strain the vodka mixture through a stainless steel strainer into a large bowl. Gather the remaining cherry pulp into cheese cloth and squeeze out liquid into same bowl.
- Pour liquid back into Mason jar, close, and age in a cool place for three to four months.
- Siphon off the clear liqueur, leaving sludge behind in jar, or filter liquid through paper towels and then coffee filters (twice each) to clarify. Store in clean sterilized bottles.
The recipe in the book calls for sour cherries, but I used the last of mine making another batch of Sour Cherry Almond Preserves (we may have worked our way through 4 jars in less than a month, it's really addictive.) Although the author doesn't mention this, sweet cherries produce a wonderful liqueur as well. If you can't find sour cherries feel free to substitute, but you may want to consider cutting back on the sugar just a little bit to compensate.
If you want another fun project to try, save your cherry pits and make a small batch of Cherry Infused Vinegar (recipe coming soon) It's absolutely fabulous in salad dressing!
Don't want to purchase an entire case of Mason Jars? I don't blame you, which is why I double checked: both Hobby Lobby and Michaels sell the half-gallon jars individually. I picked one up last week at Michaels for around $3 after using the in-ad coupon.
For anyone who is wondering, I opted to use Svekda, a mid-range priced vodka. Feel free to choose your favorite, as long as it's 80 proof, but for the best flavor try to avoid any of the bottom-shelf brands.
I'm not sure if I've ever read a memoir before, my reading habits tend to lean more toward vampires, sci-fi, time travel, or the occasional cozy mystery—but Unearthed caught my eye because I saw a lot of parallels between the author's family and my paternal grandparents. They weren't immigrants, but they both grew up in a children's home during the depression and post WWII age. It was a time in their lives they were reluctant to discuss with us and as the years went on we learned it was a topic better left alone. It wasn't until after my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease that we really began to learn the circumstances surrounding their childhood. The pieces we put together are heartbreaking, so it's no wonder my grandparents preferred to leave the past behind.
This is where the similarities between my family and the author's really begin to diverge. Alexandra's mother was often distant and her father remained not only silent on the matter of the past and his life in Ukraine before immigrating, but rarely spoke to her at all. She grew up finding it difficult to understand either of her parents and was often resentful of how different her older sister's relationship was with them. It isn't until after her father's death that she comes to terms with her feelings and is able to shine some light on the brutal past that helped shape her parents into the people she knew.
It all begins with an abandoned garden set on a piece of property butting up to a ravine, much like her childhood home. For Alexandra it's love at first sight and she is determined to restore the garden to its former glory. Every new project she tackles, whether it's clearing the overgrowth of the property, foraging for edibles and sharing the experience with her son (much as her parents did with her in their own garden) or rebuilding the mysterious pagoda found at the heart of the garden, reminds her of the past and brings her once step closer to understanding her parents. The book weaves these events together perfectly and it's through this massive garden restoration the author is better able to connect with her parents, accept herself for who she really is, and finally let go of some of the old hurts still haunting her from the past.
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This book was sent to me for review by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as always, all opinions are my own.