You get sweet, you get a hint of bitter, you get caramel notes. It’s layer upon layer of thick, rich flavor, sophisticated yet pure. The moment you try sour cherry preserve, your mouth explodes with this complexity of summer tastes, and your foodie world changes for good forever. Having used sour cherries every summer since childhood, I have taken it upon myself to let everyone know how wonderfully versatile they are. Right now, I just want to pack this sour cherry preserve in tiny jars and gift it to the whole wide world. It’s that good – and, in my opinion, deeper and more satisfying than the coveted jarred amarena cherries.
We used to do a lot of baking and canning with sour cherries when we lived in Europe. These fruits are precious and very delicate, and there is only a small window of opportunity at the end of June -beginning of July when you can buy them and use them straight away, otherwise they spoil. You can find sour cherries at select Chicagoland grocery stores, such as Fresh Farms International Market and Rich’s Fresh Market. For those of you with a bit of time on your hands, I strongly suggest you pick them yourselves. It can be so much fun!
This is what we did recently, when we spent one lovely Saturday morning picking sour cherries at The Valley Orchard.
Located approximately 1 hour drive away from Chicago, The Valley Orchard is a 35 acre family-owned farm that boasts an impressive range of produce, from veggies and all kinds of berries to close to 30 apple varieties.
Fresh rhubarb (now gone) was ready for pick up when we arrived:
Sometimes you get so caught up with city life that you forget how beautiful summer in the countryside can be:
And here they were, the objects of our desire! Showcasing a ruby red transparent beauty and a fragile appearance, these sour cherries were something to behold:
I climbed up on a ladder provided by The Valley Orchard staff and started cherry picking in the heat of the summer sun. With many recipes in mind and little time to waste, I wanted to fill up the buckets with as much fruit as possible.
I gladly would have spent the entire day at The Valley Orchard. The crop was plentiful and the weather was warm and pleasant. What a great view from up above!
Our little girl wanted to give us a helping hand as well. Here she was sorting out the sour cherries, careful not to miss any:
We got back home around lunchtime and a few hours later I started working on my first sour cherry dish: clafoutis.
To make the clafoutis I followed Julia Child’s recipe (which can be found here) and used a Christineholm quiche dish I bought from a second-hand store. This dish bakes beautifully and has never disappointed me:
The clafoutis turned out great thanks in part to the sour cherries, which provided a bold sourness usually absent in bing cherries. Neither overly sweet nor straight-up savory, the clafoutis was enjoyed by my husband, a picky eater who hates sugary dishes.
Here it is: the perfect summer bite!
I also used sour cherries to make a sponge cake using one of my mom’s old recipes. The cherries provided moisture and assertiveness to the otherwise classic sponge cake, rendering it velvety and chock-full of personality.
I really wish I could have spent more time at The Valley Orchard picking up delicious summer produce. These white currants (now gone) would definitely been put to good use:
Cherries and some berries might be gone for now, but plenty more deliciousness awaits. First apples will be ripe for picking around August 15th, and my favorite variety (Braeburn) will be ready the second week of October.
At the moment I have quite a few jars of sour cherry preserve safely stored in the pantry (thank you, MIL!) and as such I think I am well positioned to tackle other crops for the remainder of the year. We will return to The Valley Orchard for apples, and late raspberries, and squash, and pumpkins, and plenty more of everything. I feel blessed with so much choice – who wouldn’t? 🙂
Have a great summer, everyone!
Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated by The Valley Orchard for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.