I think sour cherries (prunus cerasus) are just about the best thing on the planet. They are expensive and a pain to pit (even with the genius Gourmet magazine tip to use a paper clip to do it that works like a charm: just unfold and dip the hook into the cherry and pull out the pit… after about three tries, you get the knack of it and they come out like magic) but they are worth every red-stained moment of effort when you taste that first slice of luscious red-fruited pie.
The cultivation of sour cherries In Britain and America goes way back. The UK’s Delicious Magazine said, “Organized cherry orchards did not arrive in Britain until Tudor times, but the Romans brought the first cherry trees to Britain from Persia. Legend has it that you can trace old Roman roads in Britain by the wild cherry trees – the Roman legions spat out stones from the fruit as they traveled the country.” Cherries really became popular in the sixteenth century during the reign of Henry VIII, who tasted them in Flanders and introduced them to Teynham in Kent, where they thrived. July 17th is National Cherry Day in Britain.
Cherry Trees blooming in Kent
Indeed, the first New World cherry was Kentish Red planted by the Massachusetts’ colonists, Wikipedia tells us.
I think one of the reasons I love them so is because they are truly seasonal. They don’t grow in climates without winters and they don’t travel very well. If you have only had the canned variety you are missing out on heaven. Sour cherry season is only from mid-June to early July in the US; blink and you miss it!
3 T almonds chopped or sliced
¾ c flour
½ c whole-wheat flour
½ t salt
1 t pepper
1 T sugar
1 stick frozen butter, cut into small pieces
2 T frozen lard, cut into small pieces
¼ c cold water
Grind the almonds in the food processor. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse to blend. Add the butter and lard and pulse a few times till it is still full of little chunks but not as fine as cornmeal. At this point I remove the blade and add the water by hand, stirring with a fork.
Turn the dough onto a floured piece of wax paper. Grab clumps and set to the side. Take each clump, smear and pile them up. This makes the flakes. When done, form into a round and let chill for an hour.
5 c cherries
2 T cornstarch (or 2 T ground tapioca)
½ c sugar
2 T maple syrup
1 T kirsch
juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ t allspice
½ t cinnamon
Demerara or rough sugar for sprinkling
Mix all the ingredients together except demerara and let sit.
Preheat oven to 425º. Bake the crust for 12 minutes lined with foil and weights.
Remove foil and add filling. Lay foil over top and bake at 350º for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is browned.
Remove from oven and press cherries down into juices. Allow to cool, then eat!
I love a little whipped cream with rosewater or Aftelier’s Rose Absolute… really spectacular together!