Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cherry bomb!

It was cherry season, and then it wasn't anymore.

Of course, instead of living in the now of the farmer's market, I spent the first few weeks of cherry season mourning the end of strawberry season and dwelling on all of the pints of strawberry jam I didn't get to can, and strawberry cakes I didn't get to bake, and so on and so forth until last week when I made those two awesome cherry jams. And then I was like, "wait a minute.... I love cherries!"

I spent the week plotting out the bazillions of things I would do with the tons and tons of cherries I would buy at this week's market: cherry pie, cherry ice cream, chocolate cherry preserves... and more! I would frolic in fields full of cherry trees and swim in rivers of pure red cherry juice! It would be cherry flavored heaven! So Saturday morning, I grabbed my largest bag, a ridiculous sum of money and skipped over to the farmer's market to find.....



After inquiring at all of the regular stands, I learned that cherry season was over. Finito. No mas. Oh, well, off to Whole Foods, then, where at least the sour cherries they sell are from Red Jacket Orchards - though they are crazy expensive, which swiftly squashed my dreams of cherry-flavored grandeur. Don't worry, though - I picked up enough of them for a scaled down version of Cherrypalooza 2011, starting with sour cherry sorbet!

This might be the first time that my ice cream maker actually made a frozen dessert that I would happily share with my friends. (Previous attempts have been too shamefully crappy to even discuss in public.) The sorbet was great, though. I used the proportions from Thomas Keller's Bouchon, a beautiful coffee-table cookbook full of perfectly executed bistro classics. Two pounds of fruit, one and a quarter cups of sugar and two tablespoons of lime juice, whirled in the blender, chilled and then frozen in the ice cream maker. So simple and so good. The resulting sorbet is a vibrant magenta color, fairly well-balanced if a touch too sweet, and lusciously textured. If I do this over, I think I'd reduce the sugar to a cup - though I have more of a sweet tooth than most, I crave tart more than sugary in the dog days of summer.

My next project was maraschino cherries. Though I completely adore the awful, neon-red, corn-syrup soaked maraschino cherries one finds in jars, on sundaes and at the bottom of whiskey sours, I can reluctantly agree that red dye is probably not the best thing for me to be putting into my body. (And certainly not as frequently as whiskey sours are consumed in the Cooking Inside the Box household!) So I decided to make my own, with this recipe from the New York Times.

I settled down in front of a Bridezillas marathon (heaven!) with my cherry pitter and got to work. Once I had a pound or so of pitted sour cherries collected in a half-gallon mason jar, I boiled up a cup of Luxardo maraschino liqueur and poured it over the cherries. Three days later, I had perfect cherries for a perfect cocktail.

I'd seen other recipes that called for sugar syrup, almond extract or other types of alcohol - amaretto or brandy or cherry heering - but decided to start with the classic preparation. I totally dig it! The cherries are sweet and boozy, though not cloying at all. I see a lot of extra-delicious whiskey sours in my future.

I also started a cherry bounce, following this recipe from the Runaway Spoon. Bourbon, sugar and sweet cherries - I can't wait to try it! Sadly, though, I've got to wait til Thanksgiving or so - cherry bounce apparently takes a long time to properly infuse. It'll be so cool, though, to open this stuff up in November and be able to taste the summer all over again. And with bourbon, too!

Finally, the final few sweet cherries went into a fruit crisp with those blueberries I picked up this weekend. (Despite my disappointment about the cherries, I still managed to stock up on the berry du jour.) It's deeply purple, soft and sweet, warm and comforting. I try to temper the fruity part of fruit crisp with lemon juice and only a small sprinking of sugar but I really go to town with the crispy topping: gobs of butter, showers of sugar and oats and cinnamon. This stuff is good warm out of the oven but even better the next morning on unsweetened Greek yogurt. Crisp for breakfast? Why not? It's, uh... it's local, right? So it must be healthy!

That's right. Support your local farmer - eat dessert for breakfast.

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