Cherries

Cherries

By
Skye Gyngell
Contains
7 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844006212
Photographer
Jason Lowe

The arrival of the first cherries marks the beginning of summer for me. In season from around June, cherries – along with apricots – are the first of the year’s stone fruits to ripen. Yet strangely enough, cherries always remind me of Christmas, salt water and mangoes. As a child growing up in Australia, my memories of Christmas are of heat, long summer holidays by the sea, and boxes brimming with cherries and mangoes that my mother would bring home from the local greengrocers. My sister, brother and I would work through the first box of cherries in one sitting, our mother having shooed us outside so as not to make a mess. We’d gorge on handfuls of fruit, spitting the stones as far as we possibly could. I always hoped that one of those far-flung stones would miraculously grow into a tree that would produce endless fruit just for us... but of course that never happened. I loved the taste of the sweet fragrant fruit, and my first ever pair of earrings was a pair of cherries hooked over the top of my ears!

There are more than 500 varieties of cherries in cultivation – their colours ranging from deep, dark red through pale yellow hues tinged with orange, to almost white. They can be broadly classified into sweet and sour cherries. My favourites lie among the paler varieties, whose flavour – even when perfectly ripe – has a gentle tartness. The darker varieties are juicy and wonderfully fragrant at their peak, but they seem to pass this point quickly and their flavour is soon overblown.

When you are buying cherries, look for fruit that is bright, plump and glossy, with flesh that is tight and plump. At farmers’ markets and greengrocers they are often sold loose, so take time to pick through and take only the perfect ones. Check the stems, too – these should be green and crisp, not brown and woody. That said, the best way of finding out whether you’ve come across a good crop is to taste one.

At the restaurant we use both sweet and sour cherries. Of the sour varieties, morello is a particular favourite. We pickle these small, tart, deep red cherries in a solution of sherry or wine vinegar, sugar and cloves, and keep them tightly sealed in a dark corner. In the early autumn, we serve them alongside cured meats or tossed through warm salads. Game, such as grouse or pheasant, and the early bitter winter leaves pair well with pickled cherries, as do the first of the autumn nuts – young soft walnuts and hazelnuts.

When perfectly ripe and deliciously juicy, sweet cherries need no embellishment. If you can resist eating them straight from the bag, give them a quick rinse and savour them just as they are. Their season is brief – perhaps the briefest of all the summer fruits – lasting not much longer than a month, so make the most of them. Beyond enjoying them in their natural state, we also make sweet cherries into sorbets and ice creams, simple cordials and tarts. To round off a simple, satisfying meal, I really can’t think of anything better than a plate of fresh ripe cherries and juicy apricots with soft, lemony goat’s cheeses, drizzled lightly with fragrant honey.

Recipes in this Chapter

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