There are a lot of people this time of year that have more cherry’s than they know what to do with, and since you can only make so many pies, you might as well make some booze. A few options would be beer, cider, or wine!
For any of the following recipes, make sure your cherries are de-stemmed, cleaned and pitted, free of worms and are as ripe as possible.
If you are a beer brewer and don’t like wine, beer is the obvious option, but if you haven’t added fruit to a beer before, you might be hesitant. Don’t worry, adding fruit to a beer is easy, and can produce great results. The big question is, what kind of beer goes well with cherries? Well, if you like beer, and you like the taste of cherries, the options are pretty much limitless. Most people think of light colored and light bodied beers like a Hefe or a Blonde, but the tart flavor goes well with sour beers like berliner weisse or lambics. But, sometimes the overlooked beers for fruit are the dark beers, and sweet or tart cherries work well in porters and stouts. Try adding 5 pounds of tart cherries to your fermenting dry Irish stout, and get an easy drinking cherry stout:
Light LME - 6 lb
(or 8 lbs 2-row pale malt for all grain brewers)
Flaked Barley - 1 lb
UK Roasted Barley = 12 oz
Acid Malt - 4 oz
UK Black Malt - 4 oz
Kent Goldings - 2 oz @ 60 min
Cherries - 3-5 lbs
Yeast: Wyeast 1084 or Lallemand Nottingham dryOG: 1.046, FG: 1.010, IBU: 32, ABV: 4.4%
Add cherries to the end of primary fermentation or to start of secondary fermentation. This will create a reactivation of the yeast and will start fermentation again. Once this second fermentation has stopped, transfer to another vessel for clearing and aging, or bottle.
Making cider can be an easy way to ferment some cherries also. This can be done with just cherry juice, or as an apple cherry blend. While the blend is more popular, if you love cherries, try it straight. Using just cherry juice will give you a starting gravity of 1.055-1.065, just right for a cider. Much like an apple or pear cider, the only thing really needed is juice and yeast. Since even “sweet” cherries are relatively tart, I would recommend starting with sweet cherries so you don’t get something too sour to drink, but some people like it sour, so do whatever you like, it is homebrewing after all. Make a 1 gallon batch to start, and go from there:
Sweet Cherry Juice 1 Gal
Yeast: Wyeast Cider or Mangrove Jack Cider dry
OG: 1.046, FG: 1.010, ABV: 4.4%
Not much to do here. Just ferment your juice in either double or single stage and bottle. Try it carbonated.
Many people think that after grapes, cherries make the best wine, and cherries also blend well with grape wines, but for the sake of purity we will just discuss a straight cherry wine. Like the cider you can use a sweet or tart cherries, or a blend of whatever you have, but unlike the cider, instead of just cherry juice, we will use sugar and water to bump the volume and alcohol. It is a bit counterintuitive, but the cherry wine recipe takes fewer cherries than the cider recipe, but again it is homebrewing, so make some 1 gallon batches with varying amounts of cherry juice to see what you like best:
Fresh or frozen sweet cherries 4-6 lbs
(or 1 gallon black cherry juice, pure or reconstituted)
Finely granulated sugar 2-3 lbs
Water 1 gallon (omit if using 1 gallon juice)
Acid blend 1 tsp
Pectic enzyme 1/2 tsp
Yeast nutrient 1 tsp
Montrachet or Premier Cuvee wine yeast
Whether you use juice or water you can use a nylon bag to “steep” the cherry “pulp” in your primary fermenter, this should add some body and character to your wine. Remove bag when transferring to your secondary vessel (or after 5 days).