Update: if my posting in December seems more incoherent than usual, you'll know the reason.
A Christmas present in May? That’s because you have to do the work now in order to enjoy this in December. It’s a nice touch after dinner with friends. Or when you have a quiet evening to enjoy a book. From Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty (New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1986):
A Cordial of Sweet Cherries
After the elements are assembled—the work of 10 minutes—time alone creates this pretty cordial. It requires several months in the jar before it’s ready to enjoy; put everything together in midsummer, and well before the winter holidays the fragrant spirits will be ready to sip.
When the cordial has been drained off and bottled, more sugar and brandy can be added ot the fruit, now awesomely wrinkled, for a second go-round, as described in the recipe.
2 pounds firm-ripe medium-size cherries, dark or light
2 to 4 cups sugar, depending on sweetness desired
1 quart good-quality brandy
1. Rinse and drain the cherries and roll them on a towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Remove the stems.
2. Divide the cherries between two sterilized, dry quart jars (or use a half-gallon glass storage jar with a gasket and a clamped lid, if you prefer),
3. Divide the sugar between the two jars, using 2 cups if you are unsure how sweet you want the cordial to be (more can be added later). Add the brandy, which should cover the cherries and sugar generously. Cover the jars airtight and set them in a cool, preferably dark spot where you will remember to check them regularly.
4. Shake the jars every few days or at least once a week; the sugar will gradually dissolve as the cherry juices join the brandy in the syrup. When all the sugar has dissolved, taste the syrup and decide whether you want to add more sugar; if you do, this is the moment. If sugar is added, continue to shake the jars occasionally until it has all dissolved.
5. Leave the cherries in the brandy for a minimum of 3 months; 5 or 6 months is not too long.
6. Strain the cordial from the cherries and funnel it into clean, dry bottles. Cap or cork them (use new corks only) and store them out of light.
7. If you want to recycle the cherries, add to them half as much sugar and brandy as you used the first time and proceed as before. You may want to leave the cherries in this batch until time to pour the cordial in order to extract all possible flavor.
I prefer the results if you pit the cherries (obviously adds to the prep time) and let the jars sit for at least 5 months. My preference is to use 3 cups of sugar—sweeter is better with brandy. Don't go overboard on the quality (or price) of the brandy, but as with all recipes the quality of the ingredients is important for the final result. I use the half-gallon jar with a clamped lid for ease of use. Because I prefer to let the cherries sit longer in the cordial, I’ve had only mediocre results on re-using them. As with all recipes and differences in tastes, your mileage may vary. One last note—enjoy!
The picture below is from a couple of years ago—the strained cherries after sitting in the back of the pantry for 6 months.