Another stone fruit. Cherries originated in Asia and were grown in Europe in the Middle Ages. The wild sweet cherry tree was enjoyed by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Cherries can be either sweet or sour; the main difference is their sugar content. They can range in color from pale yellow to dark red, almost black. The red cherries are a good source of phenolic antioxidants.
Cherries are used throughout Asia and Europe in both sweet and savory dishes. In Alsace a savory cherry soup is traditionally made on Christmas Eve. How festive looking! We had a tart cherry tree in the yard growing up and I loved pitting the cherries and making pie. Cherries are also used in liqueurs and other alcoholic drinks such as English cherry brandy, Guignolet, kirsch, and Maraschino.
Maraschino cherries that we now put on our ice cream originated in northeastern Italy and the Balkans. Back then the marasca cherry, local to the region, was preserved in its own liqueur. Once industry got its hands on it things changed. Light colored cherries are bleached with sulfur dioxide and stored in brine. They are then infused with sugar syrup, dyed red, flavored with almond extract, and pasteurized. Not much is left of the original cherry after that process.
Here is a recipe for an impressive cherry dessert. Later this week I will post a recipe for rice with tart cherries. Share your favorite cherry recipes by clicking on the comments link and writing in.
Cherries Flambeed a la Bourguignonne
Remove the stems and pits from your favorite cherries. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar and 3 tablespoons water for every 2 1/4 pounds of cherries you have. Cook gently on the stove for 8-10 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons of red current jelly and reduce for about five minutes. Pour into a flambe pan, (or a saute pan if you are one of those people who doesn’t keep a flambe pan handy), and sprinkle with pre-heated Burgundy marc. Flame the cherries just prior to serving.