Archive for July, 2017

A Jubilee of Cherries

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

One of my favorite seasons has arrived—and may go away very, very soon! Sour cherries are ripe here in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

This smaller, redder, tarter version of the conventional cherry is perfect for cooking. My mother used to make sour cherry soup. (I wish I had her recipe; I’m going to try to recreate it one of these days.) Sour cherries are great in pies, cobblers, cakes, and jams.

They hold their shape well when baked. And when one combines them with sugar (as I’m afraid one pretty much always does) they deliver a succulent sweet-and-tart flavor that gives extra dimension to anything one creates.

Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield recently let me pick some of his sour cherries so I could experiment. Clarkdale isn’t open at this time of year, but it does sell its delectable cherries at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.

I ended up picking the cherries in the rain—but somehow the whole experience was still delightful!

According to Ben, cherries were one of the first crops his great-grandfather, Dr. Webster Clark, planted when he started growing fruit more than a century ago. (Clarkdale celebrated its centennial in 2015.) Today the farm harvests varieties the Clarks have been growing over the past decade.

Clarkdale harvests several hundred quarts of sour cherries a year. The varieties featured are Jubileum, Montmorency, and Balaton. I picked Montmorency cherries—sour but not too sour. The farm also produces six varieties of sweet cherries.

I even had a cherry hat to wear while picking, made by my cousin Kate!

The bad news is that the sour-cherry season is short. The good news is that that season is RIGHT NOW.

The tart cherries are worth embracing for that limited period of time. They don’t just taste good. They are good for those of us who consume them.

Sour cherries contain something called anthocyanins. Linked to the bright hue of the cherries, these substances can help the liver, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, fight arthritis, and improve circulation. Studies indicate sour cherries may even prevent cancer.

I asked Ben Clark how long his sour cherries last once picked. “If refrigerated with stems intact,” he explained, “they will last for a week or two with no detrimental effects. They can also be frozen for six to 12 months.”

Ben and his wife Lori love to cook with the cherries. They enjoyed cherry pie last week for Independence Day. They also make cherry jam and a cherry liqueur which I have just assembled. (I can’t report back on its flavor yet; it has to age for at least three months.)

I also made an appetizer, baking brie with sour-cherry jam and pecans. I had been longing to bake brie ever since a friend gave me a handsome brie baker from local potter Jeanne Douillard. The baker worked like a charm, and the combination of flavors and textures was a winner.

Finally, I prepared a cherry upside-down cake. This was more or less an accident! I had hoped to make a cherry torte based on a classic New York Times recipe. When my cherries slid ignominiously to the bottom of the torte, I took their descent as a hint that maybe I should try an upside-down cake.

Happy cherry season………

Sour Cherry Pecan Brie

Ingredients:

for the jam:

2 cups sour cherries, pitted
1-1/4 cups sugar (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tiny pat butter

for the baked brie:

1 8-ounce round of brie
1/3 cup sour cherry jam (use the rest as a breakfast spread—yum!)
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Instructions:

First, make the jam. (This may be done days in advance as long as you store it in the refrigerator.) In a medium saucepan combine the cherries, 1 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for an hour or so to juice up.

When the hour has elapsed heat the cherry mixture, stirring frequently. Once the cherries begin to soften, add the remaining sugar and the butter. Cook until the jam reaches a temperature of 218 degrees. Remove the jam from the heat and let it cool.

To make the baked brie preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top rind off the brie, and place it in a lightly greased, shallow baking dish. Put the jam and pecans on top. Bake the brie until it gets oozy and warm. In my brie baker this took 25 minutes. I should think it would be done in 20 minutes in a thinner pan.

Serve with crackers. Serves 6 to 8.

Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

for the topping:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups pitted sour cherries

for the cake:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First make the topping (which goes on the bottom!).

Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until it melts and bubbles—3 to 4 minutes. Arrange the cherries on top.

For the cake cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla, and pour the batter over the cherry mixture.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center (but not too far down; don’t hit the cherries!) comes out clean, about 40 minutes. If the cake is brown but not done before this happens, decrease the oven temperature and continue baking.

Allow the cake to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife, and invert the cake onto a serving plate held over the skillet. Turn upside-down. Remove pan.

Serve alone or with whipped cream. Serves 8.

And now the videos….

Tinky Makes Sour Cherry Pecan Brie

Tinky Makes Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake

Strawberry Cream-Cheese Tart

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

I know I just posted here a few days ago. I hope you’re not getting sick of me! I thought readers might like to make this festive tart for the Fourth of July, however.

The recipe has a number of steps so technically it takes a lot of time. Most of the time is spent waiting for portions of the tart to cool, however, so it’s not hard. The only thing you have to bake is the crust—and that can be done early in the morning or late at night so you won’t heat up the house too much in this warm season.

And the tart is a definite showstopper. I tend to make it the day before I serve it.

Yes, you may use a store-bought pie crust, but this one isn’t hard. You may also use lemon juice instead of key lime.

As I point out in the video below, if you want to be particularly patriotic, you may put a few blueberries on top of the tart.

Happy Independence Day!

The Tart

Ingredients:

for the tart shell:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1-1/3 cups flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the filling:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup key-lime juice

for the topping:

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons key-lime juice
4 tablespoons cold water
3-1/2 cups halved strawberries, divided

Instructions:

Begin with the crust. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until they are just blended. Add the flour and the salt, and stir until the mixture seems crumbly. (It will be dry.)

In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk and the vanilla; drizzle this mixture over the flour mixture. Combine until the flour mixture is evenly moist; it will still be crumbly.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan. (You may use an 8-inch pie pan if you’d rather, but the tart is just beautiful.) Place the dough in the pan. Press it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of pan. Prick the bottom of the crust a bit to keep it from puffing up too much.

Put the crust in the freezer, uncovered, for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool it completely before filling it.

To make the filling beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth; then beat in the condensed milk and the key-lime juice. Spoon this mixture over the cooled crust, and refrigerate for several hours before proceeding.

Finally, make the topping. In a heavy saucepan whisk together the cornstarch, the sugar, and the salt. Slowly whisk in the liquids. In a bowl, mash 1-1/2 cups of the berries. Add them to the cornstarch mixture. Let the mixture sit in the saucepan for 1 hour to juice up.

At the end of the hour bring the berry mixture to a boil, and boil it for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove it from the heat and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. Stir in the remaining uncooked berries.

Spoon the topping over the tart filling. Refrigerate the tart until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with additional strawberries and mint leaves if you wish. Serves 8.

And now the video….

Tinky Makes Strawberry Cream-Cheese Tart on Mass Appeal