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It happens every year around the 8th of August. My friend Sam has been doing this for 27 years, and this year is no different. I was very fortunate to get to learn from the legend about how to make his famous Toucan Sam’s Door County Cherry Bounce. You can’t buy this stuff in a store, or buy it at all for that matter. He only makes enough for his family, friends, and for party favors throughout the year.
First things first… Sam is pretty particular about his cherries. They must be Ballantine Cherries and he always gets them from his buddy Bob Lautenbach over at Orchard Country Winery in Fish Creek. I wanted to get the experience of picking them with my step daughter Andrea so we went to a friend’s orchard and picked a pail full. The volume that Sam does requires buying pails of cherries but not everyone is looking to make that kind of quantity. This particular batch is going to use 6 pails of cherries to make 42 jars of cherry bounce.
I get to Sam’s house to find an assembly line of jars, cherries, sugar, and booze all set up. After washing my hands, we get right to work. I’m in charge of scooping the cherries out of the pails and filling up quart size wide mouth canning jars. Sam’s wife Diane stands opposite of me doing the same so a jar fills up very quickly. You only want to fill the jar with cherries up to the rim below the mouth of the jar and make sure you don’t pack them too full. After we fill all 42 jars (not including the half jar that Sam stashes for “Quality Control”), it’s time for the sugar. A four pound bag of sugar will get you 9 ½ cups of sugar. You need ½ cup for each quart so you will get 19 quarts per bag. After the first time making this, you can adjust the sugar content as needed to fit your tastes. We used a large funnel to dump the sugar into the jars to make it less messy.
Now for the fun part! After the sugar was added to each jar, it’s time to pick your flavors. To my left sat a dozen bottles of various flavor liquors including 2 types of whiskey, Goldschlager, Dark Cream de Cacao, Spiced & Coconut Rums, Amaretto, Kahlua & Bourbon. Pay attention to what size bottle you are using and how much is left. We figured out that a 1.5L bottle will fill 5 quarts, 750mL bottles will fill about 2.5 quarts and 1L bottles will fill 4 quarts so plan accordingly when making the trip to the grocery store. A word of advice for those of you worried about what your neighbors might say… maybe spread out your liquor purchases over a couple weeks. Sam has some pretty funny stories of getting funny looks from cashiers at the local grocery stores after buying mass quantities of random booze flavors. The best (and unavoidable) of making cherry bounce is that you will always have some liquor left because the full quart jars require different amounts of alcohol depending on the number of cherries you put in. Sam says that’s for the “Bottle Emptying Party” after all the bounce is made. We’ve got a party in the works for the next couple of weeks, in case you’re interested.
It’s as easy as it seems, you take your liquor of choice and fill quart jar of cherries to just under the brim. Make sure you cover the cherries in liquid when filling and wipe the rim clean of any sugar or liquid. Once you’ve filled the jars up, make sure you label each lid before moving on to the next liquor. Nothing says surprise like opening up a jar of what you thought was amaretto bounce, popping one in your mouth and finding out it was tequila. As the cherries sit over time, they lose some of their size and the liquid in them combines with the alcohol creating a dark red color.
Once you’ve capped up all the jars and labelled them with both the liquor type and the year, you may want to take a wet rag and wipe down each jar in case of any spills. Store the jars in a cool dry place and rotate twice before Christmas time. These make great holiday party favors or even gifts!
** Warning, Sam could not disclose his secret ingredient for making bounce and even waited until I left the house to add it to the new batch. Have no fear, just get creative with it! Develop your own secret ingredients! It’s part of the appeal. **
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