[This is the first of a few guests posts you'll be seeing over the coming months, this one from my Greek stepmother, one of the best cooks I know.]
I’ve been fixated on sour cherries since last year when some friends told me they make the most delicious cobbler ever. I scored two quarts at a farmers market, baked that cobbler, and was in love. But when I returned for more, their short (two weeks? two days?) season was over.
This summer, when I spied trees laden with tart cherries at a local farm, I bought all the farm stand would sell me (believe it or not, there was a waiting list for those cherries)
and spent the next 24 hours pitting, cooking, and freezing the little darlings (frozen, pitted cherries are nearly as delicious as fresh), in hopes that maybe, possibly, this year I will eat my fill.
The chore was not easy. I mean, it’s not like lifting heavy rocks, but it still left me with a stiff back and neck. Each one of those soft, tiny orbs needed to be stemmed and the pit removed, preferably without damaging the fruit’s fragile shape. This job requires patience, at least three back-to-back podcasts of This American Life, and a superior ability to multitask so that when your granddog escapes out the front door midway through the process you can launch a search party (I’m looking at you, Chester Arthur Miller).
I acknowledge that I am one of those people who enjoys the obscure, the hard-to-get, the fleeting. That tiny character flaw has brought me more trouble more often than I would like to (or will) admit.
Sour cherries, however, are completely worth it.
As a reward for pitting all those cherries, I treated myself to a Sour Cherry Gin Muddler, courtesy of last week’s NYTimes.
Then I made Sour Cherry Clafoutis, a light, airy dessert that was perfectly complemented by the presence of tart cherries—delicious.
By the time you read this, the ridiculously short, fragile sour cherry season will probably be over, and I will be harvesting my freezer to try Claudia Roden’s Little Meatballs With Cherries.
Just to be completely clear, my freezer is chained and locked.
Note: I used Montmorency cherries, a variety of tart cherry that is bright red with clear juice; the other type is Morello, which are purple with dark, staining juice and more sour. Both are delicious and will work in these recipes; just wear a rubber apron when you pit the Morellos.
Sour Cherry Gin Muddler
From Melissa Clark at the New York Times, who calls this a cross between Kat Kinsman’s sour cherry cocktail and a classic aviation cocktail. I call it a delicious way to drink gin, which, to be completely honest, is perfect straight from the bottle.
1. Place three pitted sour cherries and a thin lemon slice in the bottom of a rocks glass. Add half a teaspoon or so of sugar and muddle until the cherries are smashed up but not pureed.
2. Pack the glass with ice and top with gin. Float a teaspoon or two of maraschino liqueur on top (or the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries, assuming you have high-quality ones without a bunch of dye and additives; which of course you do, if, like me, Manhattans are your winter drink of choice.)
Sour Cherry Clafoutis
From Gourmet Magazine, May 2008, created by Dana Cree of Veil, in Seattle
5 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup Amaretto
½ cup flour, sifted
½ teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
¼ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
About 2 pounds (1½–2 quarts) fresh sour cherries, stemmed, and pitted
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a large baking pan (round is nice if you have one) and cover the bottom with cherries.
2. With a stand or hand mixer (I used a stand mixer, which was quick and easy), whip the egg yolks and sugar to a thick pale ribbon. Whisk in Amaretto until combined. Fold in the flour and salt. Set aside.
3. Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the sugar and continue whipping until stiff and glossy. (I did this first because I was too lazy to wash the egg yolks off the beater, but if you, too, are lazy, proceed quickly with the rest of the whipping so it doesn’t sit around very long.)
4. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.
5. Fold the cream into the yolk mixture in two batches. Fold the meringue into the batter in two batches.
6. Cover the cherries with clafoutis batter, pressing slightly as you spread and encouraging the batter to fill any crevices between the fruit. Bake 20–25 minutes (more or less, depending on the size of the pan), until golden brown and set. Serve immediately (best) with vanilla ice cream, or even cold, which is surprisingly good as well.
[Hello, bitches, it's me again, here to let you know that I was lucky enough to both taste the clafoutis hot out of the oven and eat a leftover piece cold the next day. For breakfast, if you must know. I highly recommend it either way. Or even better, both.]