Find out how to turn wild black cherries (Prunus serotina) into fermented wild black cherry cordial – a delicious, fizzy, probiotic health tonic!
We love homemade fermented foods and view them as one of the keys to good health, as we’ve written about here and here. We also enjoy fermented beverages, something we started experimenting with years ago when making water kefir, milk kefir, kombucha, and tepache (from the skins of our homegrown pineapples).
At the end of the day, we enjoy watching the sunset with our ducks while enjoying a cold homemade beverage (or warm beverage during the cold months). Each night is different, depending on what’s ripe in our yard or what we’ve recently foraged. Some recent favorites: muddled fresh raspberries and makrut lime leaves, sparkling elderflower syrup, dwarf tamarillo and calamondin oranges.
As a general rule, we either use whole fruit, skin and all, or we use the whole fruit to make a fermented beverage. Option 1, using whole fruits/berries, is largely a prebiotic, providing lots of good fiber to feed our resident gut microbes). Option 2, fermented beverages, is primarily a probiotic, introducing diverse species of beneficial microbes to our gut flora. Our philosophy is that medicine should be delicious since we eat and drink it regularly each day.
Our nightly beverage tradition has caused us to look at various plants in a unique light. For instance, instead of seeing Mimosa trees (Albizia julibrissin) as invasive trash trees, we now see them in a more eastern sense. In China, they’re called the “Tree of Happiness,” since the flowers and bark are used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental problems. It just so happens that mimosa flowers also make an absolutely killer fermented beverage as well, that tastes almost exactly like the flowers smell.
Similarly, our native black cherry trees (Prunus serotina) seem to be held in little regard outside of being prized by furniture and cabinetmakers for its gorgeous wood. Farmers hate the trees since compounds in their leaves can make their livestock sick or die when eaten.
And nobody seems to care much for the tiny bittersweet wild cherries that the tree produces, other than some old timers who make them into jellies, pies, and sauces. However, we’ve absolutely fallen in love with black cherry trees ever since we experimented with the fruit for the first time last spring/summer.
Recently, while out foraging for chanterelle mushrooms, we walked out of the woods into a clearing to find a patch of black cherry trees with low-hanging branches completely covered with ripe fruit. Needless to say, we quickly found room in our harvest basket for both mushrooms and cherries.
Less than a week later, we’d turned them into a test batch of fermented (sparkling) black cherry cordial ready to taste. We LOVED it, as did our guests. It’s like the taste of domesticated cherries, but intensified by many orders of magnitude, likely due to higher concentrations of the wild cherries’ unique antioxidant compounds. The fermentation process adds bubbles to the drink that serve to further enhance the flavor while adding a visceral dynamism to each sip.
A few days later, we went back to the same spot to pick 5 more cups of wild black cherries to make a bigger batch of fermented wild black cherry cordial, using the recipe we share below.
How to make Fermented Wild Black Cherry Cordial
Some helpful photos
Recipe at the bottom of the post.
Recommended Items For Making Black Cherry Cordial and Other Fermented Beverages
We’ve got wonderful new for you: you can use this basic recipe to make delicious ferments from basically any fresh, seasonal fruit you pick! Modify according to your taste and the inherent sweetness/sugar content of the fruit you’re using. For instance, strawberries are much sweeter than wild black cherries, so we’d bump down the sugar added and bump up the acid/lemon juice.
Here are a few things we mentioned in the recipe that we highly recommend you get if you plan to regularly make fermented beverages (with affiliate links to the Amazon products we use):
- Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill Glass Jar (2 gallon or 1 gallon) – *we don’t recommend putting acidic foods or making ferments in plastic containers even if they’re labeled BPA-free
- Reusable, flip-top brew bottles that allow you to easily release the pressure building in your stored jars caused by the CO2. Warning: if you get into fermented beverages, the “pop” sound of one of these bottles being opened will trigger a Pavlovian response and you’ll start drooling each time you hear it.
- Organic raw cane sugar – contains more flavor and micronutrients than highly refined sugar and it’s grown in a way that isn’t absolutely horrid for the environment and farm workers. (read here and here for reference)
- High quality citric acid
Fermented Wild Black Cherry Cordial (Prunus serotina)
- 5 cups ripe wild black cherries raw/uncooked
- 15 cups cold water
- 5 cups raw organic cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons citric acid if you'd prefer to use lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon powdered citric acid = 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, so use 8 tablespoons of lemon juice
Clean cherries by floating them in a large pot of cold water. Any debris or insects will rise to the surface and can be poured off into the sink. Then strain out the cherries.
In a large glass jar (we used a 2 gallon jar linked below this recipe) thoroughly mush the raw cherries by hand.
Add in all the other ingredients, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Cover with a cheese cloth or a linen towel (tie on with string or rubber band to ensure it's secure). It's very important that the cordial can breathe but no insects like fruit flies can get into the container. Store in a climate controlled location out of direct sunlight (a closet shelf works great).
Set a phone/calendar reminder to stir the concoction at least once every 24 hours. This helps the native yeast and aerobic bacteria on the fruit breathe and proliferate. They're the good critters that you're selecting for and feeding with sugar and fruit juice/skins. The longer you allow the ferment to continue, the more sugar the culture will consume and the less sweet the final product will taste to you. As the sucrose (sugar) is digested by the yeasts; they create carbon dioxide, which creates the delightful tiny bubbles in your ferment) and ethanol (alcohol).
Taste a teaspoon of your wild cherry cordial daily after each stir so you can bottle it exactly at the point that you prefer it. We like a slightly sour, very bubbly cherry cordial, which usually takes between 5-7 days.
Once the flavor and bubbles are just right for you, strain out all the seeds, skin, and pulp so all you're left with is a dark red/purple liquid. Pour into jars (see jar recommendations below recipe) and store in the fridge. The cold temps of your fridge drastically slow microbial activity, essentially putting the microbes to sleep and slowing the fermentation process to a crawl. This allows your living cherry cordial to be safely stored in the fridge for 2-3 months. Drink and enjoy!
Let us know how your first (or next) batch of fermented wild black cherry cordial turns out!