There’s something to be said for tradition. The notion that you can expect the same activity, event, and behaviors year after year at the same time brings comfort–even when we’re talking about moonshine. Without fail, each year come the warm temperatures of a New York July, it’s vishnik making time–just as it was in my home growing up.
Vishnik (seen above, fermenting on our back patio) is simply a combination of sour cherries, sugar and grain alcohol. But it’s the process–the very intricate filling of the bottles with the specially ordered cherries, the adding of sugar, the cherries soaking up the sun, the fermenting and letting out of gasses, the timely addition of the alcohol, and then the move into darkness–that has become this strange ritual in our home. A tradition that involves even my kids–who’ve been “hired” to help fill the bottles with the 50 pounds of cherries my husband orders.
When my mother used to make it, it was a smaller production. She didn’t have giant jugs with a funky apparatus that helped automatically release the gasses to the bottles didn’t explode (as they did last year, spraying shards of glass all over our patio). Rather, she found mason jars and basically anything round that had a cover (above right). I remember as a child, digging into the pantry for some cookies and coming across those bottles of cherries, lined in the back of the wooden closet when they were sitting in their “dark” phase.
Often times, my mother took the cherries out of the jars and poured them over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. I can’t say the taste appealed to me much then, or now. But one thing I can say, I like the fact that there’s still vishnik being made. I like watching my husband delicately add alcohol to his precious cherries at just the right moment. That my mother and my husband’s mother both made it and that the tradition continues–even if it isn’t a taste I’m particularly fond of.
To read more about my husband’s vishnik and what we discovered about on a bike trip to Croatia, click here.