When fruit is in season, you can preserve it by canning, dehydrating, or freezing. You can also preserve fruit by making it into wine, juice or jelly. But there's another option for preserving - make brandied fruit.
Brandied fruit is a delicious treat. It's wonderful as a shortcake topping, over ice cream or even by itself in a bowl. A simple treat that is also a great hostess or holiday gift!
You can make nearly any fruit into brandied fruit. The best stone fruits to add to brandy are peaches, apricots, and cherries. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries will also work, but they may become very soft and mushy. Brandied berries are still great over ice cream and cakes, or mixed into baking mixes.
The reason they are great for pantry storage is that the brandy and sugar act as a preservative. There is no need to process these peaches in a canner.
You can use almost any type of brandy with your fruit. You'll want to stay away from the really cheap stuff, but you probably won't notice a huge difference from the really expensive stuff, so stick with a nice middle of the road spirit. You could also use cognac (a type of brandy made a specific way, from a certain part of the world) for your fruit if you can find it for a good price. Whatever you choose, make sure it is at least 80 proof, or 40% alcohol by volume.
To make these, simply:
- Peel, pit and cut into slices 4 cups of fruit for every quart jar.
- Add 1/2 cup sugar directly over the fruit.
- Slid in one vanilla bean per quart jar (optional)
- Cover with your choice of brandy, leaving about 1 inch head-space at the top.
- Carefully shake the jar to mix.
- Store in a cool, dark place, shaking every couple of days.
The fruit will be ready after 6 weeks. To serve, simply spoon the fruit over cakes or ice cream.
As your brandied fruit runs low, simply add more fruit and sugar as needed, topping off with enough brandy to keep everything submerged.
Other ways to enjoy brandied fruit:
- Baking into a cake mix
- Adding to sangrias
- Muddling into a glass with mineral water
- Blending into a cake frosting or topping
- Layering on top of turkey or roasts for additional flavor
- Blending into an adult jam for crackers and cheese plate
My favorite way to use brandied fruit is in this cobbler, however. It's light and tasty and all the alcohol burns off while baking, leaving behind bountiful flavor.
Brandied Fruit Cobbler
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ¾ cup fresh ground wheat flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 quart brandied fruit, drained
- ¾ cup brandied fruit liquid
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, and heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Put butter in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan; set in oven to melt. When butter has melted, remove pan from oven.
- Drain the brandy from the fruit, reserving liquid.
- Whisk flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Add brandy; whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour batter into pan, then scatter drained fruit over batter.
- Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tb. of sugar.
- Bake until batter browns and fruit bubbles, 50 to 60 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Another popular use for brandied fruit is a friendship cake. If you've ever made sourdough bread and given some of your starter to a friend, the concept here is the same.
Friendship cakes were originally made with fermented fruit–fruit mixed with sugar and yeast. This is a long process that needs to be nurtured every day, so starting with brandied fruit instead will make the process much easier.
Create your brandied fruit as described above. You want to create enough so that once the fruit is drained, you have at least three pints of liquid remaining–one pint for you, and two for friends.
Bake your favorite cake recipe, whether that's from scratch or using a box. A traditional friendship (or "Herman" cake, in German) is a darker, heavier cake similar to a holiday fruitcake or Italian panettone (with fruit and nuts), but you could make a plain yellow cake if that's what you prefer. Bake at least three cakes after mixing the brandied fruit in.
Here's where the "friendship" part comes in. You will give the cake and a jar of the brandy liquid to two friends, along with instructions on how to create more brandied fruit of their own (plus your favorite cake recipe if you'd like). Then it's up to them to keep the friendship chain alive by making three cakes of their own, and passing on two of them with starter liquid.
Adult Fruit Leathers
To make an adult "fruit roll-up", just use your brandied fruit to make a fruit leather in your dehydrator (click here for instructions on making fruit leathers). You'll want to be sure you've thoroughly drained your fruit before pureeing it for the leather.
Unlike baking a cake or cobbler, fruit leathers will still contain the alcohol, since alcohol doesn't evaporate until you bring it up to 173°F.
Do you have a favorite combination of fruit to use? Are there other types of spirits you prefer? Let us know in the comments!