"visinata", aka tart cherry liquor
There's nothing more exciting than tart cherry season. I love cherries in general, however tart cherries are my absolute favorite. Tart cherries have a shorter growing season when compared to sweet cherries. Tart cherries can usually be picked starting middle of June in warm regions and as late as July in colder regions. Michigan is part of the latter. Usually the week around July 4th is the time I head out to the orchards.
"Visinata" is a Romanian liquor made from tart cherries (aka "visine"), sugar and alcohol. I am not a big drinker, but I do enjoy a glass of "visinata" every now and then. "Visinata" is easy to make, it is sweet and quite flavorful. Making "visinata" is not an exact science, at least not for me. When making it, I don't usually follow a recipe. What I do though first, is wash the tart cherries. The pits can be removed if preferred, however I like to leave them in given they provide the "visinata" with an almond-like flavor. I do nonetheless remove all the stems and leaves since those can make the "visinata" quite bitter. Then in a big jar, I overlap layers of tart cherries with layers of sugar in equal amounts (by weight). When the jar is filled mid way, I allow for the mix, which I loosely cover, to ferment in the sun for a couple of days.
Once the fermenting process starts, I fill the rest of the jar with vodka or gin, seal it and keep it in a dark place, at room temperature for about 3-4 months. During this time, I roll the jar around occasionally in order to assure proper mixing. When ready to serve, I strain the liquid which will give me the "visinata", and reserve the cherries for future desserts.
This drink is a drink I prepare in the summer and then I enjoy all winter. There's nothing better at Christmas than to cozy up in front of the fire with a glass of "visinata". Cheers!