Cherries are the Only Fruit
Life may not be a bowl of cherries at the moment, but for me they are the only fruit. Nothing quite equals the crunch of firm flesh and taut skin followed by an intense flood of sweet tangy juice. Like apples, they are incredibly diverse; some varieties are commonplace, such as 'Summer Sun' or 'Stella' – the equivalent of Cox's apple, say – while others are rare treats (see Varieties). In size they range from corpulent fleshy fruits to those no bigger than a raspberry; colours range from deep inky black to translucent scarlet and albino cream.
Most cherries on sale in the UK are the sweet dessert type but occasionally you might come across tart morello cherries, commonplace in the rest of Europe. Worth buying for their intense flavour – some would say mouth-puckering – these are the ones to use for jam-making, bottling and liqueurs.
Cherries are so good eaten straight from the bag that it seems a shame to do anything more with them. However, they do make gorgeous desserts. Add them to a compôte of dark fruits – raspberries, blueberries, mulberries, say – or use in a crumble with crimson-fleshed plums. Lightly poached with a splash of kirsch, they are ambrosial spooned over puffy walnut pancakes.
Cherries and chocolate are another not-to-be-missed culinary experience; use them instead of raspberries in chocolate tartlets, or have a go at making Black Forest gateau, a glorious concoction of chocolate, cherries and cream.
Cherries also make sensational ice cream. Try my recipe for Two-Cherry Yogurt Ice. I've combined luscious fresh cherries with tart dried cherries to ramp up the flavour and add a bit of texture. Made with thick Greek yogurt, this is lower in fat than traditional ice cream, but still unctuously rich and creamy.
Moving on to savoury things, cherries work well with duck, pork or any type of game, either softened alongside the meat or in a sauce. Simmer pitted cherries slowly in a fruity red wine until soft. Blitz and sieve, then bubble for a few minutes with stock or meat juices. Season with plenty of black pepper, a squeeze of orange juice and a teaspoon of clear honey perhaps.
There are plenty in the shops and markets, so do make the most of them while you can.
Varieties to look for:
'Early Rivers', large black fruits, tender flesh.
'Merton Bigarreau', large purple-black fruits, firm juicy red flesh.
'Rainier', scarlet and cream fruits, crisp flesh.
'Reine Hortense', sour morello variety, rich carnelian-red fruits, yellow flesh.
© Christine McFadden, July 2021