Yesterday I picked 2kg of cherries. It's that time of year again and I have to think of clever things to do with cherries. The first of our cherry trees has a good crop and is starting to drop fruit. The others are still green or at best starting to yellow. But just one tree with ripe fruit means I will have to do something with cherries every day for a while.
Since we have several trees, the harvest can seem unending and overwhelming. Last year we made coulis and confiture, clafoutis and compote. As well as the sweet recipes, I thought I would try my hand at a cherry sauce for use with meat dishes. Simon's ChilliCherry Sauce was good, but I thought I would aim for something sweet and spicy rather than sharp and hot.
500g sour cherries, washed
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup sugar
½ an onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp chilli powder
2cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp lapsang souchong tea, ground to a fine powder
Pluck the stems out of the cherries and squeeze the stones out through the stem hole. Discard the stems and stones, retain the cherry skins, pulp and juice. Put the onion, garlic and ginger in a saucepan with the wine and boil until the wine is reduced to about a tablespoon. Combine the cherries and juice with the rest of the ingredients, add to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens to a sauce consistency.
The resulting sauce should be good with duck, pork, chicken, fish, kebabs, prawns...
Some notes about the ingredients:
The cherries I used are the early cropping ruby red sour cherries known as guignes. They are small and fragile, and we have discovered that stoning them in the way described above works best. Cherry pitters are really designed for bigger tougher skinned cherries. These cherries have a natural spiciness which, along with their acidity, combines well with wine and rich meat. I find it is best not to over sweeten them, and to play up their flavour with some zingy spices like ginger and chilli.
The wine I used was a typical Touraine sauvignon, a couple of years old and costing 2-3 euros at the supermarket. Nothing special, the sort of thing that actually isn't very interesting to drink so you might as well cook with it (or add a dash of homemade cherry syrup and make kir at apéro hour).
The honey was a mild but delicious miel de thym (thyme honey), purchased from our local chèvre producer, who sells it on behalf of an apiarist from the other side of the Brenne, near Buzançais. 1kg cost about €8.50.
The garlic was from one of the fresh new season bulbs from the warmer south that start appearing at the market in June.