I’ve been thinking of cherries despite the tendency to think of strawberries this time of the year. Sweet cherries were the first fruit I picked at a farm. They were deep red and bursting with juice: I remember the farmer telling me to retain the stem when picking so the fruit doesn’t lose any drips of juice. This was many years ago at a farm in Maryland. I haven’t since picked sweet cherries at a farm; the closest I came to was a farm with cherry trees that unfortunately never seemed to bear fruit because of untimely weather.
The Virginia strawberry season in May does not share the spotlight with any other fruit, there are strawberries in May and June to open the fruit-picking season followed by cherries in June and July with some overlap between the two. But clearly the tree in front of my house had different ideas this year. While it has been filled with cherry blossoms the last two years I’ve seen it, it now bursts with bright red cherries, the atypical weather notwithstanding. I wasn’t convinced, however, until I picked one to taste, and sure enough, some not so red cherries included, they tasted very familiar. Lest I think this atypical behavior is limited to the tree in front of my house, the farm where I pick strawberries also co-advertised for cherries this year.
I hadn’t planned to pick bowls of cherries stepping out the front door much less work with them, but when life gives me cherries it seems easy to do something with them.
Here’s a simple method to prepare cherries:
After popping enough cherries in the mouth to sample, pit some bright red cherries using a cherry-pitter ensuring that any juice from the pitting process falls right into a collecting bowl. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the pitted cherries and then macerate them with some sugar to extract the juice. Reduce the cherry juice to a syrup, add some kirsch or cognac and then pour over the cherries. Serve with some lightly whipped unsweetened cream and a few slices of toasted almonds.
Fresh cherries were a luxury when growing-up in India; preserved in tin cans they were still called fresh cherries to distinguish them from the more abundantly available candied versions. When a can of fresh cherries were opened they ended up entirely in a recipe, so the few that escaped into my mouth on rare occasions were quite a treat just as much a treat as it was to see cherries dot the tree in front of my house in mid-May.