Big Bossman proudly presented me with the fruit of his harvest:
"I picked them myself!" he said "Aren't they beautiful?"
I was facing a mountain of vibrant red sour cherries piled up on my kitchen counter. Five gallons of freshly picked little cherries from Big Bossman's Country estate, it looked like precious rubies and gems out of a treasure's chest.
"They are... Beautiful!!" i answered trying to sound enthusiast.
"Make something with them!" he said as he walked out of the kitchen.
"...........!" was my reply.
Without wasting a second i entered the terms 'Sour Cherry' in my internal search engine (aka my Brain). Unsurprisingly, the search returned no results. I wish Google could be installed on humans too!
I tasted a cherry hoping inspiration would strike...well it stroke me as...errrr...Sour!
For centuries, the cherry, has been a source of medicine for indigenous peoples. Native Americans prized cherries as pain relievers, especially for sore throat. The Cherokee used an infusion of sour cherry bark to treat laryngitis. The Ojibwa used the crushed root for stomach pain. The forest Potawatomi employed an infusion of the inner bark to alleviate internal pains while the MicMac (any relation to the Big Mac?) used black cherry fruit as a health tonic.
"Should i turn them into cough medicine for next time Big Bossman has a cold?" i thought.
I needed counselling, bad!
I quickly picked up the phone and called four chef buddies asking the same question: "What the heck do you do with sour cherries?"
Here are their answers in chronological order:
Buddy #1: "Ummmmm..."
Buddy #2: "errrrr...."
Buddy #3: "Sour Cherry Pie!"
Buddy #4: "euhhh..."
Thank to chef buddy #3 i had a lead!
A fresh sour cherry pie is really good, but since sour cherry season is so short, most americans use canned filling. I have nightmares about canned filling! Please donate your cans or use the sweet glop to patch the walls (i heard it works well on flat tires too!) and wait patiently for July every year to pick up some fresh sour cherries from your local farmer's market. Here's my recipe:
Fresh Sour Cherry Pie (serves 8)
For the crust:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cold Unsalted Butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 6 tablespoons ice water
- 1 egg yolk (for egg wash)
For the filling:
- 5 cups pitted sour cherries
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 tablespoon water
- Zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 teaspoon Almond Extract
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Make the pie crust: Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and process for 10 seconds. Stop the machine. Cut the fats into chunks and scatter over the dry ingredients. Pulse in 2-seconds bursts until the fats turn into small lumps. Drizzle the ice water and pulse until the dough begins to form. Do not overwork. Press the dough together, wrap and refrigerate.
Make the sour cherry filling: Combine all the ingredients except the butter in a large stainless steel bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes.
Assemble and bake the pie: Preheat oven to 425' degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Cut the reserved dough in half. On a floured surface roll out 1/2 the pastry to 1/4-inch thickness. Line the pie plate evenly triming the overhanging dough. Roll out the remaining pastry dough to 1/4-inch thickness and reserve. Pour the pie filling into the bottom crust and dot with the butter. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with some of the juice from the cherries. Cover with the top crust, then eal the edge. Cut a steam vent in the center of the pie. Make an egg wash by mixing the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon cold water. Brush evenly the top crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until golden brown and filling is bubbling through the vent. Let cool completely on a rack before serving.
This pie was a big success among Big Bossman's family. The juicy, sweet and tart fruit worked really well against the buttery crust. The pie will keep at room temperature for up to one day.
But I still had one problem to solve:
4 1/2 gallon of freshly picked sour cherries in my fridge...
After looking into a few cookbooks i found a recipe for Sour Cherry Sorbet in The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavernby Claudia Fleming.
Since sour cherries are too tart to eat out of hand, they are traditionnally baked into pies, but this refreshingly icy sorbet is an even more summery celebration of their vibrant fruit flavor. Here's an adaptation of Claudia Fleming's recipe:
Sour Cherry Sorbet (yield: 1 pint)
Simple Syrup (yield 2 1/2 cups):
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3 cups sour cherries, pitted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2/3 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
- 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (i use the powder inside a Vitamin C capsule)
For the simple syrup:
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine the sugar and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Let the syrup simmer for 1 minute then turn off the heat and allow to cool. Simple syrup will keep almost indefinitely in a tightly sealed bottle in the refrigerator.
For the Sorbet:
- In a medium bowl, combine the cherries and sugar. Let them macerate for 30 minutes, then puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. Push the puree through a fine sieve and stir in the simple syrup, 1/3 cup water and the ascorbic acid.
- Chill the mixture until it's very cold, about 4 hours. Freeze in an Ice Cream Machine according to the manufacturer's direction.
This is a great recipe to enjoy the fruit's electric vibrancy!
Fine!!...I know what you're going to say:
What the heck am i going to do with the remaining 4 gallons of sour cherries?
Easy...i'm going to 'Food-Sectionit'... yea its a new term for us cooks, The New york Times Food section's gotta have something on sour cherries, it's july, they have a bunch of researcher and food writers getting the big bucks to write about seasonal stuff and...
It's called Sour Cherry Syrup in an article called 'The Cherries of Persia'.
Sour Cherry Syrup (yield:2 quarts)
- 5 cups sugar
- 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 pounds washed and stemmed sour cherries, unpitted
- In a large pan, bring sugar, lime juice, and 3 cups water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Tie cherries up in 2 layers of cheesecloth and gently lower into pan. Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
- Lift cherries in their cheesecloth and hold above pan for a minute to let syrup drain. Set cherries aside and let everything cool.
- Pour syrup into clean jars or bottles. Keep in refrigerator until needed. If desired, place cherries in a clean jar and cover with syrup.
Note: Stir 3 or 4 parts cold water with 1 part syrup and add ice to make sour cherry coolers. Syrup can also be diluted with sparkling water to make cherry soda, or used in cocktails. Reserved cherries in syrup may be used in desserts or as cocktail cherries.
Here you have it...enjoy!