Sour cherries are be-still-my-heart beautiful. They almost seem to glow.
Sour cherries are true to their name, flavorwise, and one of the few fresh fruits you typically won't find in grocery stores, due to their delicate constitutions and fleeting availability.
(Fun fact: When exposed to light - even the amount that emanates from a bulb in the refrigerator - pitted sour cherries will discolor or darken. So keep them under opaque wraps.)
The takeaway: You must grab those sour cherries while you can. And just like the hawker says on TV: Supplies are limited. Three of my pints went into a pie; the fourth presented a quandary. Stockpile in the freezer or find the best use for two cups' worth?
I opted for using the last pint right away, seeking advice from three pros.
- Bakery owner Tiffany MacIsaac would make sour cherry crumb bars:
Combine 2 cups pitted, coarsely chopped sour cherries, 1 cup cherry jam, 1/2 cup sugar, 4 teaspoons cornstarch and an optional 2 teaspoons peeled, freshly grated ginger root in a mixing bowl; let it sit while you assemble the crust/crumble.
In another bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, a pinch of salt and the finely grated zest of 2 limes. Quickly work in 16 tablespoons (that's 2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter cut into cubes, to form a crumbly dough, then add 1 large egg and mix until incorporated.
Grease a quarter-size baking sheet (roughly 9 by 13 inches) with cooking oil spray, then line it with parchment paper. Press half the dough into the pan, then spread the cherry mixture over it. Crumble the remaining dough on top. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown on top. Cool before cutting into 12 3-inch bars.
- Executive pastry chef Alex Levin suggests a riff on cherries jubilee:
Combine 8 tablespoons unsalted butter with 2/3 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then add your 2 cups pitted sour cherries along with 2 cups pitted Bing cherries. Reduce the heat to low; cook until the cherries have softened a bit, then stir in 1/3 cup cherry brandy. If you're feeling brave, flambé what's in the pan (bring a lighted match or flame within about an inch of the mixture so it will catch and burn briefly). Serve over ice cream.
- Restaurant owner Christianne Ricchi offers a boozy option as well - ciliegie al brandy, or brandied cherries:
Use a damp paper towel to wipe clean 2 cups of unpitted sour cherries; do not submerge them in water. Cut down the stems to 1/4 inch. Distribute them among several pint jars, then sprinkle in a total of 3/4 cup sugar among them. Insert a short cinnamon stick in each one, add a few whole cloves to each one and an optional vanilla bean in each one. Fill with enough brandy or cognac or vodka or grappa so the fruit is submerged. Seal well, then shake until the sugar has dissolved.
Store in a darkened pantry for about 2 months (the waiting is the hardest part, Ricchi says), shaking each jar a few times during that period to help infuse the flavors. Serve them on their own, or over gelato or spongecake. The sealed jars are good for up to 1 year at room temperature.