Wednesday 9 June 2010

Know More About Your Cherries

Our first cherry to have ripe fruit this year didn't have a single fruit last year. However, in the past week we have picked 15kg of fruit from it, which has gone into 6 two person clafoutis (a batter pudding studded with cherries), 4 jars of confiture (jam), 5 jars of gelée (jelly), 750ml sirop (syrup / cordial), 2 four person crumbles, a pie and 3 batches of pie filling, as well as those we ate fresh and gave away. Almost half the cherries went into making the thick dark syrup which is so useful for kir and refreshing summer soft drinks. The tree still has some fruit on it, but we can't get to it, so the merles (blackbirds) can have it.

It's not clear from the map of the orchard that we received from the previous owner what type of cherry this early bearing cherry is, but after reading an article recently, I suspect it may be a variety called la Burlat.

Several kilos of cherries, picked a couple of days ago.
Cherry season is always too short, but over a period of nearly three months a dozen varieties will succeed one another. Cherries can be acidic or sweet. The sweet ones are known as bigarreaux in France. This isn't a varietal name, but a general term for a type of table or eating cherry, and refers to their somewhat streaky flesh.

La Burlat is the earliest widely known cherry variety in France and opens the season of eating cherries, signaling the return of summer. It takes its name from Léonard Burlat, who grew the first one from seed. Bright red, heart-shaped, it is sweet and juicy with a texture not too squishy, not too firm.

I think these are la Burlat.
Soon we will have the sour cherries known as guignes here, but called griottes in many places. The name griotte comes from the Provençal word for bitter. Guignes have a high water content and are pleasantly acidic, sometimes with a touch of bitterness. They are rarely eaten fresh, but make excellent eau-de-vie, preserves and vinegar, and provide a sweet'n'sour foil to charcuterie or magret de canard (duck breast).

One of the most popular bigarreaux is a variety called Napoleon. Not often seen at the market, it is widely grown in people's gardens. It can be recognised by its big yellow heart-shaped fruits, spotted with scarlet. It is generally left alone by the birds, who don't realise it is ripe. It's juice is colourless and flesh firm, with a strong skin giving a satisfying mouthfeel when you bite into one.

Simon picking cherries.
You can see guignes and Napoleon cherries in our post from last year.



Ken Broadhurst said...

There is a good list of cherry varieties on Supertoinette.

Ken Broadhurst said...

And then I found this on another site:

• Les Bigarreaux sont des fruits doux, fermes et sucrées.
• Les Guignes ont la chair molle et sont douces.
• Les Griottes ont la chair molle et acide.
• Les Cerises anglaise ont la chair molle et acidulée (sucrée et acide), ce serait un croisement entre la cerise douce et la griotte.

So guignes are soft and sweet, but griottes are soft and sour?

Susan said...

Ken: perhaps it's all relative. Our guignes are not sweet compared to the bigarreaux, but they are not inedibly sour. I would describe them as tart. Everyone here refers to this type of cherry as guignes and tell me they are used for clafoutis, eau-de-vie and confiture. I read much the same things about griottes, so I assumed they were the same.

John said...

Guignes & Griottes. I am interested by Ken's contribution. We have one of these trees and it is called a Griotte by one next-door neighbour and a Guigne by the other. Our tree produces tartish fruits which we do eat when very ripe (but maybe in a good sunny year). The neighbour who calls them Griottes comes from the south and has a background in cultivation so we have adopted her usage. Until reading Ken's comments we thought they were the same, but now ....
In any case in our experience so far in rural France no one seems to be too concerned about precision over varieties. Our attempts to obtain a named variety of Fig were only successful when we went to the British National Fig collection holders. Until then we were presented with Red Fig, White Fig, Rose Fig, or just Fig.


Susan said...

It seems clear that guigne is the same word as the English Gean i.e. Wild Cherry. I think that in the Loire these small tart cherries have come to be called guignes because they resemble the original native wild cherries. They certainly multiply enthusiastically by seed and / or suckers just like a wild one would. I think in Loire-speak guignes and griottes are the same, but depending on your source / what you read, guignes can be described as small sweet cherries, small sour cherries, or large sweet cherries. Guigne can sometimes be guignon too.

Tim said...

Consider also filling a large [3L] Le Parfait jar with the sour ones and filling with the cheapest brandy you can find.... but make sure it is not more than 36% ABV. This, when poured over the cherries and left in a dark, cool place for 6 months, gives luverly crisp cherries to have with winter meals and a weaker [about 15%'ish ABV] Cherry Brandy for those cold , grey February evenings when France rurale is shut!
Move is on for the 20th/21st!
You can try some once we are there.
Any of the cherries work, but the Morello-type acid ones are the best.
PS: The verification word is fundensu [Fun then, Su?]

chm said...

Here is what I found in the Grand Bescherrelle dictionary, year 1870. [It seems that griottes are always blackish, whereas guignes are either red, white or blackish. Go figure!]

GRIOTTE. s. f. (du bas latin acriatum, formé de a privatif, et de acer, aigre). Horticulture. Genre de cerise à courte queue, grosse et noirâtre, plus douce que les autres.

GRIOTTIER. s. m. Arbre qui porte des griottes. On comprend généralement sous ce nom les cerisiers dont les fruits sont d'un rouge très foncé ou presque noirs, qui ont la peau moins tendre, la chair plus ferme, rougeâtre, moins fondante que celle des cerisiers proprement dits, quelque fois acide, le plus souvent douce, mais avec une petite pointe d'amertume. En général, les griottiers donnent une grande quantité de fleurs ; la majeure partie avorte pour peu qu'il y ait du froid ou qu'il tombe beaucoup de pluie.

GUIGNE. s. f (de l'espagnol guinda, ou du turc vischna, cerise). Horticulture. Fruit qui appartient à la famille des cerises et qui provient du guignier, et aussi de la culture du merisier et du cerisier sauvage. La guigne est douce et sucrée ; elle mûrit dans le courant de juin. Guigne rouge, Guigne blanche. Guigne noire.

GUIGNIER. s. m. Botanique. Arbre de la famille des cerisiers qui porte des guignes, dont les principales sont : le guignier à gros fruit noir, le guignier à fruit blanc et le guignier à fruit rose hâtif.

Susan said...

Tim: Unfortunately S & I just don't like fruit in alcohol enough. I did some last year and we still have some left.

CHM: Thanks. This looks definitive, but impossible to really sort out. I guess we have red guignes.

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