A while ago I made cherry bounce. It's a very old-fashioned drink that was apparently much-beloved by George Washington. I speculated about George and cherries even longer ago, in a post that remains today one of my top-viewed posts. You see, cherries are not even remotely in season in February, and George was a lover of walnuts. Although he preferred English walnuts, black walnuts were easier and cheaper to get.
I live nearby where George was stationed during the end of the Revolutionary War. And there are black walnut trees a-plenty in my area. I've thought about harvesting them, but they're so fussy and difficult, and my days so busy, that I've never bothered. I leave them to the squirrels, who seem to cleverly leave them in our driveway so our cars will crack them for them. They then carry them to a shallow stone in our lawn to finish cracking them open.
This President's Day weekend I worked on the Saturday, went to a friend's birthday party (she got her own quart of bounce and a pair of tiny brandy glasses for a present), had errands to run on Sunday, and worked on the holiday Monday. So it was just the other day that I got to enjoy a small (and very 18th century looking) glass of the cherry bounce. I even lit a candle for George, Abe, and all my other favorite presidents (including Teddy Roosevelt, of course).
My husband thinks it tastes like cherry cough medicine, and I'll admit the brandy is a bit strong. Gives you a lovely warm feeling if you're cold, that's for sure. But you do get just a slight sweetness (I used much less sugar than the historic recipe) and a nice bright sour cherry taste. The color is also absolutely beautiful and comes just from the fruit - no artificial colors here! Next time, I think I'll pack the jar right full of sour cherries for a stronger cherry taste. And maybe spend just a smidge more money on the brandy. :D
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.
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