Now that sweet cherry season is officially here, these summertime rubies are a must-have for any barbecue or party, whether theyre baked in a pie, crushed into a cocktail or eaten as a fresh out-of-hand snack. But first things first, what should someone look for when searching for the perfect cherry?
The Perfect Cherries
Cherry enthusiasts should keep an eye out for firm, shiny and smooth skins. In general, the darker the cherry, the sweeter, and with most varieties darkness is a sign of ripeness. The stems should be green and flexible. Northwest cherries, in particular, are known for their extraordinarily sweet flavor, due to the areas excellent growing conditions. There are a wide variety of sweet cherries, ranging up to the extra-sweet, yellow-fleshed Rainier cherries. Though so similar theyre often sold as their collective dark sweet cherries, the most common varieties include Bing, Sweetheart, Chelan, Lapins, Tieton and Skeena.
Keeping Your Cherries Fresh
Fresh cherries should be kept in a tightly sealed bag or container and can keep for approximately two weeks in the fridge. While this cherry season will be short, you dont have to limit these tasty, healthy treats to just the summer. Buying an extra bag (or two, or three) to freeze allows you to have sweet cherries all year long.
To create festive cherry dishes for the summer season, try this Cherry Martini or Cherry Almond Pie and find more recipes and cherry tips at nwcherries.com.
2 cups pitted, halved Northwest fresh sweet cherries, divided
1/4 cup almond liqueur
2 teaspoons sugar
12 lady fingers, split in half lengthwise
4 whole Northwest fresh sweet cherries with stems
1/4 cup whipped lowfat cream cheese, divided
Mix halved cherries, liqueur and sugar; marinate 1 hour or longer.
Arrange lady fingers against sides of 4 martini glasses. Before serving, spoon 1/2 cup cherries over lady fingers and swirl 1 tablespoon cream cheese over cherries in each glass. Garnish with whole cherry and serve.
Substitutions: Orange liqueur may be substituted for almond liqueur. Angel food cake or pound cake, cut into 3-by-1-by-1/2-inch strips, may be substituted for lady fingers. Lightly toast strips, if desired. Sour cream or creme fraiche may be substituted for cream cheese.
Cherry Almond Pie
1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided
1 pastry (9 inches), for double crust pie
1 egg, beaten
4 cups pitted Northwest fresh sweet cherries
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine
Red Wine Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup red wine
Heat oven to 375 F.
Finely chop 1/4 cup almonds.
Roll dough into circle approximately 16 inches in diameter and sprinkle chopped almonds over top; roll gently to embed nuts in dough.
Transfer dough to lightly greased baking sheet lined with parchment paper, if desired. Brush with beaten egg.
Mix cherries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and wine. Spoon cherry mixture onto dough, leaving 4-inch border. Lift edges of dough over fruit, leaving 5-inch circle of cherries showing in center. Fold in edges of pastry to form circle.
Brush pastry with remaining egg mixture; sprinkle with remaining almonds. Bake 30 minutes, or until pastry browns and filling bubbles.
Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. If desired, serve with Red Wine Glaze to drizzle over each serving.
To make Red Wine Glaze, mix together powdered sugar and red wine.