It's sweet-cherry picking time again in the backyard! At least this year the bounty is a little more restrained than last year when we were literally giving away buckets of them and spending days pitting, packing, and freezing. I still have a giant bonanza of last year's fruit frozen and waiting for me to get cooking.
This year my focus has been on eating them directly from the tree as they ripen. That way there's no cherry stained kitchen, clothes, and body. For a few days last year the kitchen, and anyone working in it, looked like a CSI bloodspattered crime scene. Pitting and packaging hundreds of cherries really is the pits. This year I'm freezing any excess fruit in the most simple manner, whole with stems still on.
These beauties are really worth any time and effort spent. It's immensely pleasurable to watch the tree blossom wildly in early spring, seeing the cherries emerge hard and green to start, and then brightening to a brilliant glowing red just before they settle into a deep wine-red maturity.
There are apparently some health benefits from the potassium and flavonoids found in cherries but I love them mostly for the taste, texture and visual beauty.
Cherry blossom festivals are over for the northern hemisphere this year, but there still are cherry pit spitting contests to visit.
What to do with sweet-cherries, besides just eating them out of hand? As a sauce they compliment pork, chicken, duck and venison dishes. Have a look at these recipes.
For a decadent treat, melt some dark chocolate, dip the cherries, and serve with a raspberry dipping sauce. The raspberry harvest starts at the height of the sweet-cherry season so you should be able to source all the fruit locally.
There is also a long European tradition of making cordials, sweet alcoholic beverages. At it's simplest, freeze the cherries, thaw them, mush them, and then put in a jar. Add some lemon zest and cover with vodka. Put the jar in dark place for a couple of months (turning the bottle whenever you remember). Finallly strain cherry/vodka mush through coffee filters, add some sugar syrup and bottle.