A Grand Year For Cherries

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Fresh Ideas For A Refreshing Fruit

When ripe cherries hit the market, my family eats them by the pound. My toddler grandson and I sit at the table and he gobbles them down as fast as I can pit them for him. Before long, we both get covered in the sticky, dark red juice and so do all my table linens (not to mention my clothing). I find that ripe cherries last longer and keep better if I soak them in cool water for an hour or so. Though nothing can beat sun-warmed, just-picked cherries, a day or two of refrigeration can leave them slightly less delightful, but the cool soak helps them stay in tip top shape a little longer.

Once we’ve eaten our fill, it’s time to get inventive. This morning, I enjoyed cherry popovers, crisp on top and creamy inside, with delicious bits of cherry coming as a lovely surprise. We enjoy cherries in savory green salads as well, especially when paired with arugula and sweet peppers and tossed with a light basil pesto dressing. My favorite way to revel in an excess of cherries is to roast them. Lightly caramelized, cherries develop a glazed, slightly crunchy skin with a melting middle. Tossed with a high-temperature oil and hot or sweet spices before roasting, they make a splendid side for grilled chicken or fish. For an unforgettable dessert, roast some with maple syrup and nutmeg, then spoon the result over homemade ice cream. Next you might try caramelized cherry scones, add some to morning granola, stir them into cakes or use them to garnish a sizzling hot curry.

Advanced Cherry Pitting

I have tried several mechanical cherry pitters and find them quite frustrating. One friend pits her cherries by poking out the pit with a sturdy straw, but I work fastest by cutting the cherries in half, rotating the two halves in opposite directions to loosen the pit, then flicking it out with the knife or my fingertip. It’s quick and very messy, so I always keep some Bac-Out (made by Bioclean) on hand. This natural degrader removes odors as well as horrible stains of many kinds, from red wine to baby puke and even worse…

Cherry Popovers

2 tablespoons soft butter
1 cup finely chopped cherries
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup unbleached flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and generously butter a muffin tin with half the butter and add some cherries to each cup. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining butter with remaining ingredients and blend for 30 seconds with a hand mixer (don’t over-mix). Fill muffin cups about 1/3 full and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F, then without opening the oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 10-15 minutes longer. (Longer time for extra crispy tops.) Serve immediately with butter and raspberry jam. Makes 12.

Gilding The Lily

All these caramelized cherry recipes can be made with sweet or tart cherries and all can be frozen for up to 3 months if you can hide them successfully.

Caramelized Spicy Cherries

2 cups halved sweet cherries
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika or chili pepper flakes
1 organic lime, quartered

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss cherries, oil, sea salt and spice of choice, then spread cherries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast until edges are browned (15-20 minutes). Spritz with lime juice and serve with fish or chicken or sweet corn, or just wolf them down. Serves 1-4.

Caramelized Curried Cherries

2 cups halved tart pie cherries
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss cherries, coconut oil, sea salt and curry powder, then spread cherries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast until edges are browned (15-20 minutes). Serve over basmati rice with fish or chicken or any vegetable. Serves 1-4.

Sweet Caramelized Cherries

2 cups halved sweet cherries
1 tablespoon avocado or safflower oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss cherries, oil, lemon rind, and spices with half the lemon juice, then spread cherries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, reserving extra juice. Roast until edges are browned (15-20 minutes). Toss with remaining juices and serve over ice cream, bread pudding, rice pudding, or whatever you fancy. Serves 1-4.

This salad is also good with chopped fresh cherries if you’re in a hurry.

Caramelized Cherry & Chicken Salad

1/4 cup walnuts or hazelnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup fresh basil with some stems
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 head Romaine, sliced in ribbons
1 cup arugula, shredded
2 cups cooked chicken, in bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas, in 1-inch pieces
1 Italian sweet pepper (or any sweet pepper), chopped
1/2 cup caramelized cherries (any kind)

In a food processor, grind the nuts coarsely, then add the oil, vinegar, basil and salt to taste, set aside. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients except cherries, toss with dressing, divide between 4 plates and serve, topped with cherries. Serves 4.


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