Traditional cherry wine gains new fans in area

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2001


PHOTO: LaPlace resident John Snyder finishes straining and bottling his homemade cherry wine. Each year, he makes a few gallons of the sweet liquid and shares it with close friends. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) LAPLACE – John Snyder is carrying on a tradition. It involves the fruit of a tall cherry tree in his back yard, big spoonfuls of white sugar and a good bit of store-bought alcohol. Combined, a sweet-tasting cherry wine is created. “This goes back all the way to the Romans,” Snyder said, as he poured the dark red liquid into a bottle. “I’m trying to keep up a tradition here.” Last year, he made five gallons, but since his wife fussed at him for it, he cut back to three this year. He picked his cherries when they were ready, bought several bottles of white Port wine and got out the sugar. His recipe calls for a quart of cherries and a gallon of the alcohol. He usually uses about four gumbo spoons full of sugar and then he lets it sit for 30 days. Snyder’s grandfather and step-father started making cherry wine years ago, and Snyder has tried to get his own grown children to get involved. He said he mostly gives the bottles to his friends when he finishes making the concoction. The cherries blossom in February, and by the end of May, they are almost black in color. That is when he picks them off the tree. Given the option of using vodka, whiskey or the wine, Snyder chooses the wine for the alcohol input. “Whiskey’s too bitter, but vodka’s all right,” he said. After Snyder combines the ingredients and lets the liquid sit for a month, stirring it twice a week to get the cherries to dissolve into the wine, he strains the liquid into a container by using a strainer and a coffee filter to get the pulp out of it. He used to use cheesecloths, but said that the filters come in handy. “In the wintertime, we take the wine with us when we go hunting. It’s some good stuff. It keeps you warm. But now I’m getting too old to walk the swamp out there,” Snyder said. “But when you get wet in the swamp, it helps get the chill out of you.” Snyder got his cherry tree years ago when he spotted it in back of John L. Ory School. While working to install a pipe behind the school, he saw a little tree about three feet high and picked it up to plant in his own yard. It has been bearing cherries for about three years. “If you get a headache or a stomachache or you feel like you’re getting the flu, just drink a little of this,” said Snyder, as he finished draining the liquid into a bottle. As Snyder finished bottling the last of this year’s wine, he talked about his grandfather who used to give him a quarter to pick a gallon of cherries from a tree in the yard. “We’d get a sheet and put it down, then throw sticks up into the tree to knock the cherries down,” he said. “It’s going to go out of tradition. I’m just trying to get it back.”