Cherry Liqueur + Book Review: Unearthed by Alexandra Risen #UnearthedParty #canitforward

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.

Recipe excerpted from UNEARTHED, © 2016 by Alexandra Risen. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.   DISCLOSURE: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, as always all opinions are my own.

Recipe excerpted from UNEARTHED, © 2016 by Alexandra Risen. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. DISCLOSURE: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, as always all opinions are my own.

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.





This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

This book was sent to me for review by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as always, all opinions are my own.

Ruby Red Smoothie

My habit of skipping breakfast has been years in the making. Even when I was younger I'd rush off to school having eaten nothing, only to be starving before the first bell rang. This habit didn't change much as I got older, although I did wise up and start carrying granola bars in my backpack after one of my classmates commented on the fact that the jolt cola I was chugging down like my life depended on it was doing nothing to quiet my grumbling stomach. By college my classes had fewer than 15 people in them, so the whole room knew I'd rolled out of bed just in time to drive to class.

Now that I have a child of my own my eating habits have changed for the better. I've been trying to lead by example (and so far it's working.) If he sees me eating a healthy breakfast, then he's more inclined to eat breakfast as well. And if breakfast happens to include something brightly colored with a fun straw, it doesn't really matter than I've hidden beets and spinach in it, it looks like fun therefore it gets consumed quickly.

If you're not entirely sold on the idea of beets, try adding a little bit more each time you make your smoothie. After a few days you won't even notice that you've been slipping something healthy into your drink. I'll admit, it took me a little while to adjust to their earthy taste, I've never been a fan of beets, but I've been drinking these several times a week for months now and have really come to enjoy them. Hopefully you will too, but if not feel free to leave me a comment below. I love to hear feedback, both good and bad.

Ruby Red Smoothie

Ruby Red Smoothie
makes 1 serving


1 handful fresh spinach
4 - 6 beet slices, frozen (see notes)
4 - 6 whole strawberries, frozen
1 over ripe banana


  • Combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.


I've been buying bags of frozen beets from Whole Foods, they run about $2 for 10 ounces of non-gmo beets. I find that I'm more likely to add them to my smoothie if I don't have to worry about slicing them up myself. 

Blueberry Cardamom Smoothie

Last week when I mentioned I was on a bit of a blueberry kick, I wasn't kidding. I've been eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the past two weeks. Most of my meals have consisted of that awesome blueberry chicken salad I shared with you last week (it's seriously addictive) but I've also been making a lot of smoothies too. 

I tend to save most of my smoothie making for warmer weather. The last thing you would think I would want for breakfast in the middle of winter is something cold, but sometimes a girl just wants what she wants, even if it isn't in season and even if it is 20°F outside. Fortunately I have a freezer full of frozen berries with which to feed my craving. Sometimes it pays to be prepared, which is one of the best skills I learned when I was a Girl Scout.

My blueberry cravings started two weeks ago when I stumbled across a new flavor of yogurt at the grocery store. I'd never seen blueberry and cardamom paired together before, so of course it caught my eye and once I had tried it there was no going back. I knew it had to be made into a smoothie.

So I made one. Then I made another and another... this is how addiction starts, I know, you don't have to tell me. Instead why don't you try the smoothie, then tell your friends, family, and even your boss about how mindblowingly awesome it was (well, unless you don't like your boss, then in that case you have my permission to drink it in front of them and refuse to share the recipe.) The sooner you go out and make this smoothie the sooner we can all be addicted to it together. It is seriously that good.

Blueberry Cardamom Smoothie

Blueberry Cardamom Smoothie
makes 1 serving


½ cup unsweetened almond milk (see notes)
1 cup blueberries, frozen
1 banana, medium sized
¼ teaspoon cardamom, ground


  • In a blender combine almond milk, blueberries, banana, and cardamom. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.


You don't have to stick with almond milk for this recipe so feel free to substitute. 

Caramel Banana Matcha Smoothie

It's pretty well established that I'm not a morning person. It's so bad that if I have somewhere to be early in the morning I'd rather stay up all night and show up somewhat tired than grouchy and grumpy (my typcially early morning state.) I'm not sure why it is, but even after a full night sleep I find myself dragging when I first get out of bed. Some days it's hard to resist crawling back in, pulling the sheets over my head, and pretending the day hasn't started. Does any one else feel this way? Most of the time I feel like I'm the only one; I have the misfortune of having a husband and son who are not just early risers, but also very chipper in the morning. That is so not me!

To combat this I've started drinking matcha when I first wake up. The burst of energy it gives me is exactly what I need to get going without the caffeine crash coffee typically gives you later in the day. You may have caught some of my matcha reviews during Tuesday Tea, but if not, I order my matcha from Red Leaf Tea in Illinois. They offer a huge variety of flavored matcha and I've enjoyed experimenting with it. I've fallen in love with the caramel flavor and now that the weather has warmed up I've been combining it with my morning smoothie which has produced some pretty tasty results. Today's recipe for Caramel Banana Matcha Smoothies has been my favorite so far, so I hope you enjoy it.


Caramel Banana Matcha Smoothie
makes 2 servings


1 cup 2% milk
1 medium sized banana, sliced and frozen
1 teaspoon caramel matcha from Red Leaf Tea


Whipped cream
Chopped walnuts 


  • Slice banana, place in a ziplock bag or covered container and freeze overnight.
  • Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
  • For a decadent treat top with whipped cream and chopped walnuts before serving.