Cherry season is all too short and one of the highlights of my cooking year.
A few weeks ago, I suddenly realised that I’d seen no cherries around yet, even though October had come and gone. Had I missed the season? Could I really have been that preoccupied? Surely not – my cherry radar is always set on high alert…
Clutching my heart, I immediately started making enquiries on Facebook and was quickly reassured: not only was cherry season still to come, but I could now also order directly from the farm for fresh deliveries in town. Oh joy of joys! I spread the news with evangelical zeal, and sent in my order.
What a treat was in store for me…
Love cherries? Then I have two words for you: Cherry Time.
Find their Facebook page, give them a like, and email them tout suite at firstname.lastname@example.org before all the cherries are sold out!
Cherry Time delivers beautifully packaged 2 kg boxes for the duration of the season in Ceres, Riebeek-Kasteel, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Somerset-West, Franschhoek, Cape Town. At a mere R150 per box – yes, that’s R150 for 2 kg of the plumpest, juiciest, biggest and most delicious cherries you’ve ever seen.
I literally did a double take when I picked up my order – I have really never seen such gorgeous cherries in my life. Ever. They make those scrawny little imported jobs you find in teeny-tiny, hyper-expensive punnets look positively anorexic.
Needless to say, I’ve been having loads of fun in my kitchen, cooking & baking up a storm (first up was a proper cherry pie, and a rich cherry-brandy sauce with roast duck) and also preserving some for future enjoyment.
I’m happy to share some of my favourite cherry recipes with you in the next few posts.
This will be brilliant with your Xmas ham!
The hardest part of this recipe is stoning and destalking the fruit.
(Save the stalks, by the way, and steep them in boiling water for up to an hour to make a great tea/extract to use against cystitis and urinary tract infections in young and old.
Makes about 3 cups (750ml)
1 kg stoned and halved cherries, weighed after removing stones
2 1/2 cups (625ml) golden sultanas or cranberries
1/2 cup (125 ml) white grape vinegar
1 cup (250ml) soft brown sugar – treacle sugar
1/2 t (2.5ml) ground ginger
2 star anise flowers
1 T (15ml) yellow mustard seeds
1 cinnamon quill, about 5cm length
2 small dried chillies
- Halve and pit the cherries and weigh them. Place in a large non-reactive, heavy-based pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir through lightly to mix well.
- Bring to the boil and cook briskly for 3-5 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir.
- Lower the heat and simmer gently until the chutney thickens and becomes sticky – about 20 minutes. Ladle into clean, sterilised glass jars while warm and let cool before screwing caps on. Store in a cool dark place for up to 6 months but refrigerate once opened.
SPICED CHERRIES IN VODKA
You can also make spiced cherries in brandy or grappa. It needs to stand for at least 1 month before serving. The remaining alcohol makes a delightful digestive in wee nips.
Makes about 2 kg
2 kg cherries, rinsed and left to dry completely
2 cinnamon quills, snapped in half
8 coriander seeds
1 t (5ml) black peppercorns
4 strips of orange peel, white pith cut away
250g castor sugar
6 cups (1.5l) brandy or grappa
- Use sharp scissors to trim the cherry stalks, leaving a bit for handling. Prick each cherry 7 or 8 times with a clean sterilized sewing needle.
- Layer in sterilized jars with the sugar and spices. Cover with brandy or grappa and screw on the sterilized lids. Leave in a cool dark place for at least one month. Will keep for up to a year.
Delicious with cold meats and cheese. For best results, let the chutney mature for at least one month before serving.
Makes about 1 kg
1 kg cherries
850ml white wine or cider vinegar
700g castor sugar
25 black peppercorns
1 star anise flower
6 bay leaves
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- Rinse the cherries and leave to dry completely. Discard any that are bruised and trim the stalks to 1 cm.
- Boil the vinegar with the sugar and spices for 10 minutes and let cool completely.
- Pack the cherries in sterilized jars and cover with the pickle syrup. Screw on the sterilized lids and leave in a cool dark place for 1 month.