So beguiling is the taste of fresh sweet cherries that we, like many lovers throughout history, have gone overboard. We've added the flavor to everything, from cherry Sweet Tarts to cherry Jell-O, and the worst offender: cherry cough syrup. What a shame, because when we do get a chance to pluck off the stem and bite into these plump red fruits, we've all but forgotten how to appreciate them.
After so much abuse, our taste buds hear "cherry" and expect the artificial stuff. Even real Bings, the most common store-bought variety, are duller in flavor and softer in texture than they should be, because they're often picked and shipped from far away. But for three or four weeks beginning in mid-June, we have a chance to taste local cherries in all their dark, rosy splendor.
At Morton's Organic Orchards in Palisade, owner-grower David Morton has been carefully tending his Bings (purplish-red and tangy), Rainiers (light yellow with a red blush), and Lapins (dark and sweet) for months. When it's time to harvest, berries are carefully picked by hand, to ensure stems don't break, and then sorted.
Eat cherries out of hand or buy a cherry pitter and make a pie, tart, or compote. Or try this 140-year-old heirloom recipe for cherry clafoutis (a custardlike dessert) from Patrick Dupays, chef of Z Cuisine Bistro and À Côté Parisian Wine Bar.
RECIPE: Cherry Clafoutis
- 2 tablespoons salted European butter
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 farm eggs
- 5 tablespoons organic sugar
- 1 cup whole organic milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ tablespoons Kirsch
- pinch of salt
- ¾ cup organic flour
- cups black cherries, pitted
- confectioners' sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°. Generously butter a 9-inch or 10-inch cast-iron skillet, or any similar baking dish. Combine vanilla extract, eggs, sugar, milk, cream, Kirsch, and salt.
Blend in a mixer for a few seconds, then gradually add the flour and blend until combined and smooth, about a minute. Pour batter into the buttered skillet or baking dish, and distribute the cherries over the top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown. When a skewer comes out clean, the clafoutis is done. If desired, dust the top with confectioners' sugar before serving. Note: If fresh cherries are not in season, you can substitute Armagnac-soaked prunes, black or red currants, or any ripe seasonal fruits like peaches or pears poached in a light syrup. Preserved fruit in a jar may also be used.