As I type this, there is a huge bucket of cherries from one of the trees on-site here at the Compost Ed Centre sitting on the office floor. We are all gorging ourselves on cherries, but I can still see tons more hanging off the branches of the tree outside the window. I’m not telling you this to boast (honest!), but to mention that cherry season is here, and if you’re not taking advantage of it, I highly recommend doing so as soon as possible! In case you get sick of just gobbling them down fresh (it seems impossible at first, I know, but I’m getting close to my saturation point and it’s only been two days), I’ve put together a seasonal recipe round-up with some rad and unusual looking cherry recipes. You won’t find any jams or pies or cobblers, but there are some shrubs, pickles, and fruit leathers that look pretty damn fine.
Homemade Cherry Vinegar: This simple recipe from She Simmers for a slightly sweet cherry vinegar looks seriously delicious. There’s not much active cooking time, and the jar just needs to sit in a dark place for a couple of weeks before maximum deliciousness is reached. After that, it sits in your fridge for up to two months waiting for you to think of tasty things to do with it.
Cherry Pickles, Sweet and Savory: These recipes from The Colors of Indian Cooking look extremely intriguing. To be honest, I can’t quite imagine the taste of the savory variation, but that actually makes me more eager to try it. The author recommends them as a pairing with pork or poultry, but I would imagine they would be really interesting in a grain based salad dressed with a viniagrette (maybe one made in part from the pickling liquid?) as well.
Sour Cherry Bam!: This dramatically named concoction is from the Local Kitchen blog, and it sounds pretty rad. In the author’s words, “It’s not quite a jam: it’s got a thick, firm texture out of the fridge, like a hard-set jelly, but it’s not smooth like a jelly, with lumps & bumps like a jam, and once it warms to room temperature it is spreadable and smooth, with a hint of a fruit butter texture. Hence the name: butter + jam = bam! Or maybe it just seemed like a bam to me because it cooked up so quickly: before I knew it, it was done.” It sounds totally delicious and ridiculously easy to make, which makes it a nice alternative to fussy jellies and overly sugar-laden jams.
Dried Cherries: Drying is a great option for quickly and easily dealing with lots of fruit. Dried cherries have an amazing concentrated taste, and will last for ages (chuck them in the freezer to extend their lifespan even longer). They’re a great snack on their own, but are also pretty totally great in baking, granola, or trail mix. The Kitchn has a helpful post on how to dry cherries in your oven, for folks who don’t have a food dehydrator. Here’s another good post on drying cherries — this one provides options for sun-drying as well as dehydrator instructions, so you can really cover all possible bases.
Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub: This is a bit of a nonsensical name if you’ve never experienced the joys of shrubs (except in bush form), but bear with me — a shrub is a shrub is an acidulated beverage made of fruit juice, sugar, and other ingredients. They were originally a way of preserving fruit before the advent of refrigeration, but now they’re just delicious drinks on their own or the bases for delicious boozy drinks. This recipe for Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub from Stirred, Not Shaken is described as complex and unusual — it uses cherries, two different kinds of vinegar and a mixture of cinnamon and black pepper for flavour. Like fruit vinegar, it gets mixed up and then stored in a dark place for a week or so, but the hands-on work is neglible. If this recipe gets you hooked on shrubbin’ and you’re eager for more recipes, Serious Eats has a great primer on how to make and use shrub syrup — I recommend giving it a try if you’re interested in amping up the quotient of delicious fruity drinks in your summer.
Cherry Fruit Leather: This simple fruit leather recipe is originally from a great preserving book called Put ’em Up, but a helpful internet person has put up a tutorial walking you through the process of making it. The ingredients couldn’t be simpler: just cherries, water and sugar, and you can even make it in your oven if you don’t own a food dehydrator. If your idea of fruit leather is the gummy little packets available at the grocery store, you owe it to yourself to try a homemade variation at some point — it’s amazingly different and an awful lot better!
I hope some of these recipes have inspired you to try cherries in a different way, and maybe to put some of your harvest aside for the cold, grey winter days when berries are exactly what you need to remind yourself that summer will indeed be back someday.