A reader on my Facebook page posted this link to a plea to revive sour cherries, the garnet little tart cherries that rise and fall like fortune on a single week, or maybe two if you’re lucky, in June.
I love NPR’s The Salt blog, and not just because I wrote a piece for it on Amsterdam pickles. The blog features a collection of writers and radio producers who focus on a single, tiny connection or issue involving every aspect of food. It’s not a paid gig, so the pieces are not overblown or forcing luxury or political hysteria on the reader. It’s just about recovering many small stories that tie us to our daily bread.
And oh, let me tell you, author Dan Charles, I am absolutely all about the effort to revive sour cherries, one of my favorite foods.
I buy a 5-lb. bag each year, already pitted and freshly picked and already sitting it its own heavenly juice from Hentze Farm in Junction City. I usually call for several weeks to find out when they’ll be ready. I only have a couple of fresh sour cherries recipes on CE because, quite frankly, I drink the juice raw like a heathen and brandy the cherries to use throughout the year in desserts. I also dry the cherries after they’ve been brandied, and use them like raisins or dried cranberries.
One of the best uses for fresh sour cherries, without question, is a cold Hungarian sour cherry soup.
I use the brandied cherries in cocktails and desserts, folding them in to batters of cakes, most recently the Burmese coconut semolina cake featured in Naomi Duguid’s brilliant cookbook. Not remotely authentic, but especially good when bathed in homemade crème fraîche, as above.
An important note about the pollination issue mentioned in the article — it’s another reminder that it is key to reintroduce genetic diversity into our food crops. The stone fruits that blossom and set fruit early in the spring are particularly vulnerable when the weather can be brutally variable. I’ve been watching Oregon plum and cherry crops with some anxiety for years, and sometimes a late cold snap can wipe out nearly all of the fruit in one variety. So introducing various pollinator trees and a range of sour cherries helps ensure the bees will come back during the season and catch the little blossoms on a lucky sunny day.
Ayers Creek Farm now grows ‘Balaton’ sour cherries, and I’ve seen a few other varieties around. I tried to do my part and plant a sour cherry tree a few years ago, but my yard just isn’t the best place for fruit trees, I’m afraid, so I’ll do my duty as a consumer instead. Eat local, eat fragile, eat rare and fleeting and challenging.