Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table
While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.
“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792
Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon
Among the few recipes known to have been used by the Washington family is this one for Cherry Bounce, a brandy-based drink popular in the eighteenth century. It seems to have been such a favorite of General Washington’s that he packed a “Canteen” of it, along with Madeira and port, for a trip west across the Allegheny Mountains in September 1784.
This fruity, spiced cordial requires a bit of work and time, but the result is well worth the effort. After pitting, halving, and mashing the cherries, be prepared to set aside the sweetened brandied juice for twenty-four hours and then again for about two weeks after infusing it with spices. Enjoy small glasses of Cherry Bounce at room temperature and keep the remainder on hand in the refrigerator.
This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.
10 to 11 pounds fresh sour cherries, preferably Morello, or 3 (1-pound, 9-ounce) jars preserved Morello cherries
4 cups brandy
3 cups sugar, plus more as needed
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
2 to 3 whole cloves
1 (1/4-inch) piece fresh whole nutmeg
Pit the cherries, cut them in half, and put them in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, carefully mash the fruit to extract as much juice as possible. Strain the juice through a large fine-mesh strainer, pressing the fruit with a sturdy spoon. You should have about 8 cups. Reserve the mashed cherries in the freezer or refrigerator for later use. If using jarred cherries, drain the fruit and set the juice aside before halving and mashing the cherries. Add any pressed juice to the reserved juice.
In a lidded 1-gallon glass jar, combine the juice with the brandy and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover with the lid, and set aside in the refrigerator for 24 hours, occasionally stirring or carefully shaking the jar.
Bring 2 cups of the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Taste the sweetened juice and add more sugar, if desired. Stir in the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg, then cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool at room temperature. Strain and discard the spices.
Stir the spiced juice back into the 1-gallon glass jar with the reserved sweetened juice. Cover loosely with the lid and set aside for at least 2 weeks before serving, occasionally shaking the jar with care.
Serve at room temperature in small cordial or wine glasses. Store the remaining in the refrigerator.
Research & images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.