Sour cherries, being sour, are best cooked with sugar, so their most obvious applications are pies, pastries, compotes, and the like. This is a problem because sour cherry trees are prolific, and a man can only eat so much pie. Over the years we have struck upon other winning preparations for the efficient preservation and consumption of sour cherries, notably drinks like rum pot and cherry liqueur. But to really showcase the fruit’s versatility we’ve been eager for ways to use them in savoury meat dishes. Enter sour cherry barbecue sauce.
For most of my grown-up life my house barbecue sauce has been the Carolina-style recipe in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie. It is what I call a “pantry sauce”: … Continue reading.
In retrospect this is a pretty straight-forward homemade cherry liqueur, but it was actually inspired by a drink from Normandy called pommeau. To make pommeau, Normans combine two parts fresh apple juice with one part Calvados (apple brandy), then age the resulting mixture in barrels for several months before bottling. You can purchase this traditional, aged pommeau at fine liquor stores, but fresh pommeau made with just-pressed cider and consumed without barrel-aging has become one of my favourite parts of the cider season.
This formula (two parts fresh juice, one part spirit made from that juice) occurs in a number of other places. Pineau de Charentes is another famous example, made with grape must and Cognac.
So I wondered if … Continue reading.
One of the greatest French bistro desserts is tarte au citron, or lemon tart: a rich, tangy curd set in a buttery French tart shell. In furtherance to ending the tyranny of the lemon in our fair city, I’ve been experimenting with substituting citrus with our local sour cherries.
Background: Classic Fruit Curds
In pastry books there are usually two fruit curd recipes: one for lemon and lime, and another that can be used for almost any other kind of fruit.
Lemon has two traits that let it have its own style of curd: a yellow colour and a very intense acidity. If you cook lemon juice with enough egg yolks and butter that it sets as a curd … Continue reading.
I’ve known for years that Evans cherries thrive in Edmonton, but I only recently learned that they are actually “from” here.
In 1976 a cherry orchard near Fort Saskatchewan owned by one Mrs. Borward was about to be torn out to make room for a new federal penitentiary, the Edmonton Institution. Borward invited local horticulturalist Ieuan Evans to take suckers from her plants.
I haven’t been able to find any info on where exactly the Borward cherries came from, but they were a variety of the species Prunus cerasus, commonly known as sour cherry and native to areas around the Black and Caspian seas. Morello is another example of a variety of that species. The Borward trees were … Continue reading.
I’m starting to research the plants in our yard more thoroughly. This is the first of several “Plant Profiles” I hope to write.
“Prunus” means plum (think: prune), and “tomentosa” means densely hairy, referring, I think, to the leaves. This shrub is native to the far east, notably the Himalayas, China, and Japan. “Nanking” is the old roman-alphabet word for the Chinese city now transliterated as Nanjing.
As a fruit tree the Nanking is very much inferior to other sour varieties like Evans and Carmine Jewel. While the fruit is merely adequate, the plant has some striking ornamental qualities. The mature wood is a lustrous red roan. When young the shrubs are a bit twiggy and awkward, but … Continue reading.
I know I already posted today, but I wanted to quickly tell you about some cutting-edge developments in the composition and aging of the 2012 fruitcake.
Hazelnuts lose their spot to almonds. For three years now my fruitcake has been poundcake flavoured with orange zest, garnished with glacé Evans cherries, candied Navel orange peel, and roasted hazelnuts. The cherries are the star. They bring loads of flavour, acidity to balance the buttery luxury of the cake, plus they’re from Lisa’s dad’s backyard.
Working with Evans cherries over the past couple years, we’ve noticed that their aroma has a distinct note of almond extract. For some reason this aroma is especially evident in the single-varietal rumpots we’ve made. This … Continue reading.
A variation on a Christmas classic, using some local pantry items.
I had some cooked barley in my fridge, remnants of a barley-broth. I decided to employ the rice pudding method to save the left-overs. (Rice Pudding Method: a lengthy secondary cooking in sugar and milk.) The barley sucks up a lot of the milk and releases some starch into the pot.
Once a porridge has formed, cooked wild rice and dried cherries are added, and the whole lot is thickened with butter, egg yolk, and a touch of cream.
Since the wild rice and cherries are added at the end, they stay firm for textural contrast.
Wild Rice and Barley Pudding
- 235 g cooked pearled barley
… Continue reading.
“Glacé” is a confusing term because it can refer to ice cream, cake frosting, fruit candied in “hard crack” syrup, or simply fruit preserved in syrup. It’s that last definition that applies here. Most sources I consulted had a similar procedure for making glacé cherries:
Make a simple syrup of one part water and one part sugar. Bring to a simmer, add pitted cherries, remove pot from heat, cover and let stand over night. This is simply to infuse the syrup with cherry, and the cherries with syrup. The next day, remove the cherries and reduce the syrup until a candy thermometer reads 230°F. This gives a good thick-but-runny consistency. Reintroduce the cherries, simmer briefly, then store in a sanitized … Continue reading.
Most sour cherry varieties, like Evans, do dry okay, but it takes forever. With my dehydrator running on the “Fruit/Vegetable” setting (135°F), it took 30 hours to reach raisin consistency.
The dried cherries are extremely sour, even more so than when fresh (which I should have anticipated…)
I had originally planned to eat these dried sour cherries in yogurt and granola, but they are way too tart to be consumed with tangy yogurt. Suggested alternative uses: game terrines, “Raincoast Crisp” style cracker, and other applications where there is meat or starch to temper their acidity. I also love tossing them into puddings, like wild rice and barley.
This is what God intended us to do with sour cherries like Evans and Carmine Jewel: bake them in pastry.
While I have put a full recipe below, I need to stress that I don’t use a recipe for sour cherry pie. Different cherries have different levels of moisture, sugar, and acidity, and additions of cornstarch and sugar should be varied accordingly.
Put the cherries in a pot and bring to a simmer. They will release quite a lot of liquid, especially if they had been frozen. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Taste and adjust sweetness as necessary.
Prepare a cornstarch slurry of one part starch and one part water by volume. Stir the slurry into the cherries. … Continue reading.