20lb Cherry Challenge
It's not everyday that you get to bring home 20 pounds of peak-of-the-season fruit, but I did just that after taking the Cherry Bus to Yakima, WA recently. Naively, I'd hoped to bring home a couple pounds so that I could make cherry ice cream or brandied cherries. I didn't even consider I'd bring home as much as I did, so I had to work extra hard (and quick) so not to waste a single stone.
So what did I do with 20 pounds?
Potted Cherries with Balsamic and Tarragon
A gift from the Ad Hoc cookbook, this fresh pickle is made with cherries, sugar, peppercorns, cherry balsamic, water and fresh tarragon. Combine cherry balsamic, sugar, peppercorns, and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is melted. Pour over the cherries and tarragon and refrigerate until ready to use. These are great served with a simple salad or with a cheese plate.
To make the potted cherries above, you'll need cherry balsamic. If you're going to bother making enough for the potted cherries, you might as well make extra to keep in your pantry. After pitting cherries (I had pitted about 2lbs), pour balsamic vinegar over the pits and let it steep for at least an hour. Strain out the pits before using.
Potted Cherries with Vanilla Rum
This recipe also came from Ad Hoc, but called for Rainier cherries, which I didn't bring home. No matter, they taste lovely with the Bings! Pit the cherries and place them in a jar. Heat a little rum on the stove, then take it off the heat and light it with a match or a lighter to burn off the alcohol (I'll admit - I've done cherries jubilee and bananas foster a hundred times, but they don't scare me the way 3/4c of flaming rum does. I did this outside so just in case I got scared and dropped the pan, I wouldn't burn down the house. Take a pot lid with you if you're going to do this so you can smother the flame if it gets out of hand). Add water and sugar to the rum and a vanilla pod, scraped of its beans (add the beans too) and heat until you've melted the sugar. Allow this to cool completely before pouring it over the cherries (you can put the pods into the jar too).
I've resisted making ice cream this summer because I need the room in the freezer for an upcoming wedding cake, but when I brought home all these cherries, I knew I'd have to prep them for when the freezer was free again. I cleaned and pitted 2lbs and cooked them down with sugar for several hours, and then strained them before wrapping them in 1/2 cup portions that I stuck in the freezer. That meant I had leftover...
After cooking down cherries and sugar for a few hours, I got a silky red cherry syrup that we've been using in spritzers (great with a twist of lemon!), to flavor whipped cream (a few tablespoons in whipping cream will sweeten and 'cherrify' it), and to give liqueur a sweet cherry flavor (along with cracked cherry pits, which give an almond tone to the liqueur). We even used some of the syrup as a glaze to cook seitan (fake duck!), and it worked pretty well, although real duck might have been nicer.
Mini Cherry Pies
From my most recent pie crust experiments I knew I had a little leftover dough in the freezer, so I dug it out and lined a couple of springform pans. In piled the cherries (no extra sugar), and then I spooned creme anglaise over the cherries and crumbled the rest of the dough on top. After a little respite in a 350F oven, out popped a couple of pies.
Pitted and sliced, I packed these in quart bags to use in future baking projects.
Again pitted and sliced, I dried 2lbs of cherries. They've got a good herby flavor because I think we'd dried some thyme and marjoram in the dehydrator before the cherries, and they caught a little of the flavor.
My work team, ever the beneficiaries of my dessert experiments, begged for fresh fruit. They polished off 2lbs in a few hours. Two more pounds went to friends.
What's left to do?
You'd think that after all of this, I should be out of cherries, but in fact at the time I'm writing this post, I have about 4lbs left. I've got plans to make an excellent ice cream confection with some of the cherries, and I'm still thinking there's a pork dish in there somewhere. Do you have any ideas?