April McGreger is the woman responsible for those cherries. She is a former pastry chef who owns Farmer’s Daughter, her own small food business based in Carrboro, North Carolina. It’s devoted to honoring Southern culinary culture and the customs and flavors that go along with it. April’s at my farmer’s market every week selling her original products like kimchi made with local spring onions, sauerkraut peppered with juniper berries, and those astonishingly delicious cherries macerated in red wine and caramel syrup. April says she’ll sell you some via mail order, and she’s also going to give you her recipe.
Red Wine Caramel Cherries
Makes about 4 cups
This recipe is most delicious when made with at least a portion of sour cherries, but the more accessible sweet cherries make a fine substitute. You can throw in a handful of dried sour cherries, too, if you wish.
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
1 cup fruity red wine, preferably with notes of sour cherry
4 cups pitted cherries (about 1 1/2 pounds cherries)
1. Measure the red wine and set aside at the ready.
2. Measure the sugar In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan. Pour in the water and gently mix with the sugar to create a wet sand consistency. Place a lid on the pot and bring the sugar mixture to a boil over high heat. After two minutes of boiling, remove the lid and continue cooking the sugar mixture while watching closely until it begins to brown. Do not stir at all during this time.
3. When the sugar starts to brown, swirl the pan to encourage even browning. Cook the mixture until it is deep amber, then immediately add the red wine. Stand back away from the pot as much as possible to avoid the splattering.
4. Add the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and star anise and cook over medium low, stirring regularly, for about 7 minutes or until the sugar dissolves and mixture thickens and reduces by about 1/2.
5. Add the cherries all at once and cook for about 5-7 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the cherries taste cooked but still maintain some texture.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature or even cold
If covered the cherries will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or you can process them in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes for longer shelf storage.