Fresh Morello cherries are quite hard to find in the UK unless you grow them yourself. We have two Morello cherry trees that I bought for 99p each from Netto a few years ago. One was supposed to be an ordinary cherry tree but clearly there had been a mix up of labels at the warehouse and we ended up with two Morellos. I was disappointed initially until I twigged that Morello cherries are the stars of cherry society.
Their deep sour flavour is their saving grace - loads of opportunities in a wide range of dishes - from sweet to savoury. Morello cheries make excellent sauces, mixed crumbles, jam, jellies and of course an exceptional liqueur.
Unlike sloe gin, homemade Morello cherry liqueur is a very rare treat as so few people grow the trees. Sometimes you can find frozen Morello Cherries in supermarkets – these will work in this liqueur too. But fresh Morello cherries would be the choice of a connoisseur.
The other bonus of investing in a Morello cherry tree is that it will happily grow on a north wall or shadier spot than the average sun loving fruit tree. Cherry blossom will lift your heart in the spring. The cherry harvest starts around late June in East Anglia – the berries are ripe when they are dark red like the ones in the far right of the photo. If you cannot decide how to use your crop Morello cherries freeze well.
Beware most birds adore Morello cherries too. So you need to keep your tree fairly small - pruning each year and creating a fan or horizontal structure. Net your tree for at least a month before harvesting. We generally leave the Morello cherry in the front garden for bird banquets as our other tree lives inside a large fruit cage in the Kitchen Garden.
The bird fests and discarded stones have propagated three baby Morello trees. These are just sticks at the moment but within a few years these trees will bear fruit. I’ll happily post a Morello cherry stick to the first three UK people who leave a comment below specifically requesting a baby tree.
Morello Cherry Gin/Liqueur
• 454gm of washed Morello cherries (including stones)
• 100g of white granulated sugar
• 75cl bottle of medium quality gin
• Sterilised 1 litre (at least) Le Parfait jar or wide necked bottle
• Wash Morello cherries well and discard stems and any bruised or rotten fruit. Place cherries in either a large Kilner/Le Parfait jar or a wide necked 1 litre bottle.
• Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with gin to the rim. Always open sugar bags over the sink as sugar tends to get caught in the folds at the top of the bag.
• Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months).
• Some people strain the grog (through muslin/jelly bag) after 3 months and bottle it, leaving it mature for six months. We strain and bottle after six months. Don’t leave the straining process any longer than this as old fruit can ruin the flavour. At this stage you can add more sugar if you’d like a sweeter tipple.
• The longer that the cherry liqueur matures the better it will be. Why not make a bit more to lay down for the future? Finally this year we will have enough to do this.
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