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When I lived in France I made it a point to visit friends in Provence in late May and early June, when the cherry trees would be heavy with fruit. We would spend a day or two picking cherries and put up those that we didn’t eat (it is pretty hard to resist eating ripe, sweet, juicy cherries by the handful) or bake into clafoutis, pies, bread puddings and cakes. We put them up in big glass jars, preserving them in eau de vie to use later in desserts and cocktails, or in sweetened vinegar, to serve as hors d’oeuvres and with salads.
I still go to Provence every year, usually in the summer, but this year I’m here in late May, and I’m picking cherries from my friend Christine’s trees every day. Most don’t make it past the bowl in the kitchen before we’ve devoured them, but some are finding their way into desserts. Clafouti, a sort of cross between a flan and a pancake, continues to be my hands down favorite cherry dessert. It’s easy to make and has the elegance of a tart but does not require a crust, a great choice for a dinner party when you are short on time. The French don’t even bother to pit the cherries – they feel that you will savor your dessert and eat more slowly if you know there are pits in the cherries. But in my recipe I leave that up to you.
Unfortunately there was no way for me to transport jars of sweet and sour cherries back to the States. So instead of preserving the kilos of cherries we picked when I was in France, we ate them at breakfast, lunch and dinner (sometimes with Nutella). But here’s the recipe, in case you find yourself with a surfeit of this irresistible fruit, the first of the summer stone fruits to show up in our markets But here’s the recipe, in case you find yourself with a surfeit of this irresistible fruit, the first of the summer stone fruits to show up in our markets.
Sweet and Sour Cherry Pickles
2 cups good quality champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound firm, ripe cherries, with stems
5 to 6 sprigs fresh tarragon, rinsed and dried
1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, pick over the cherries, discarding any with blemishes or soft spots. Rinse, drain, and gently roll them in a towel to dry. Cut the stems with scissors to 1/2 inch.
3. Place the tarragon in a dry, sterilized 1-quart canning jar and fill with the cherries. Pour the cooled vinegar solution over the cherries, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. If the cherries are not completely covered, mix together more vinegar and sugar in a 4-1 ratio. Seal the jars with a sterilized lid and refrigerate for at least 2 weeks before eating. The cherries will keep in the refrigerator for couple of months.
Martha Rose Shulman
Welcome to my blog, where I’ll keep you up to date on what I’ve been up to in my kitchen as I test recipes for my Recipes for Health feature on the New York Times; what I’ll be up to with my online classes at Craftsy and my actual classes at other cooking schools; my new books and latest publications; and any other upcoming appearances and events.
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