Saturday 16 August 2014

Life is just a bowl of cherries

 For the last few years, we've rented a cherry tree. Unfortunately, until this year we hadn't had the chance to get down to pick the cherries - the first year was a nightmare of a harvest and not worth schlepping to Kent for, and last year I was in Australia. This year, we also missed the opportunity to go down when the blossoms were out. We're not very good at this cherry rental business.

This summer, we were determined.

We collected some fairly shallow boxes (you can't pack them too deep or they bruise) and set off. And then got stuck in traffic. We stopped for a pub lunch and a badly-needed loo-break, so we arrived a little later than planned. I'd been imagining something that looked like this, which made the reality faintly disappointing. On the other hand, it meant we could reach the top of the tree without ladders and two of us could pick the fruit without too much difficulty.

It was hot (Paul's choice of long sleeves was baffling to me) and quite hard work, so we cherry-picked (boom boom) only the best of the fruit. There was a lot of it.
Unfortunately I could NOT get a decent picture of our haul. My camera freaks out with red sometimes, regardless of the background colour. But in the end we had just shy of 16kgs of fruit. 35lb. That's a lot of cherries.

Having been tortured at high school with Seamus Heaney's Blackberry Picking, I knew I couldn't take a leisurely approach:

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not. 
I spent the next four days elbow-deep in cherries, nails stained, fingers wrinkled, racing the rat-grey fungus. And I won, by dint of all the preserving methods I could muster.

Cherry wine, cherries in alcohol, cherries in syrup, cherry pies, cherry cakes, glacé cherries, pickled cherries, frozen cherries, fresh cherries in salad, fresh cherries handed out to friends, fresh cherries eaten by the handful, cherry mincemeat for Christmas, savoury cherry jam and sweet cherry jam.
Diana Henry's Cerise au vinaigre - a sweet sour pickled cherry, perfect with smoked duck, saucisson and rillettes
The red-wine soaked cherries from Diana Henry's Guignolet, served with fudgy yoghurt cream
Cherry pie - made from this filling recipe. Froze three pies, baked one for Paul to take to work
Upside down chocolate cherry cake - sadly this was wasted when I couldn't get anyone to take it
Cherry and cinnamon jam
Cherry Bakewell with boozy cherries and cherry jam - ate one, froze one
Boozy cherry choc chip ice cream - haven't tasted this yet
Diana Henry's cherry and goats cheese salad with almond and basil gremolata
So now all we have to do is eat a mountain of cherry preserves before next summer and another harvest.
Great Wall of cherry preserves


sharonfruit said...

I was going to ask you if you need the jar back when we finish the cherry jam - now I'm not sure that you do ;o)

The cherry salad looks utterly divine (as does everything else)! I really must look up the recipe.

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

That IS a lot of cherries, well done on being resourceful with them! That glistening cherry jam is calling out to me, and the salad looks deliciously healthy.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Sharon - actually, I'd love the jar back! This all took a toll on my jar stockpile and if I come into a load of blackberries I will be stuck! I've been doing a lot of cooking from Diana Henry's most recent book; it's brilliant. I'll be doing a post on it in a couple of weeks.

Leaf - the jam has made our weekend breakfasts excellent!

Ellen in Oregon said...

You did an amazing job of putting all those cherries to good use. It made me weep to think of that lovely cherry chocolate upside down cake going to waste. Who would not be thrilled to be gifted such a culinary delight?Everything you made looks delicious. I ate so many cherries in July that I am surprised I did not burst at the seams. I never heard of being able to rent a fruit tree. What a great idea - if located close to home.

Bettina Douglas said...

Note to self: do not send hamper of jams and preserves for Paul's birthday this year.

Faux Fuchsia said...

cherrytastic!!! this is why I love your blog! that stash is impressive x

Alicia Foodycat said...

Ellen - it was tragic! I hate wasting food. Renting the tree is a great idea - they do all the work and you get the cherries.

Mother - best not! Booze might be a better idea.

FF - thank you!

Velva said...

Shut the front door! Just the idea that you are a drive away from cherries is awesome. Living in north Florida cherries are a thousand miles away. Love, love cherries.

Great post.

grace said...

cherry-picked cherries put to excellent use! i hate that their season is so brief.

Simona Carini said...

Wow! That's all I can say. No, I can also say: great job on all those cherry-centered dishes. I love the idea of renting a tree. Cherry and goat cheese salad sounds wonderful. And of course, I like those pretty labels on you jars.


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