We seem to have the good year for cherries. I have in fact discovered that fruit trees only give their beautiful products every other year. That's good to know.
Having managed to shoo away the various birds from the lowest branches, last weekend I dedicated an entire afternoon to pick our red and juicy cherries. I think the division with our fellow birds has been fair - they had the upper branches, we had the lower ones.
We filled up three big bowls - approximately a kilo each - although a few went in our mouths as we were harvesting; I think that's the best part! I remember a year when I was fifteen spending a Sunday afternoon at the back of a noisy vespa with a group of friends and going around in the Tuscan countryside sampling cherries from various farms - and then to end the day with a painful indigestion...
What to do next though with such an abundance of cherries? Three recipes came up to my mind: jam, bread, and cake.
There is nothing more comforting than hand-made jam spread on freshly baked bread, and that is what we had this morning sitting in the sun in the garden. Bliss! And jam is so easy to prepare that I am surprised no more people do it themselves instead of buying those sickly sweet spreads. A completely different dimension!
I added a touch of brandy to make it a bit more interesting but you can do perfectly without. Or perhaps adding a touch of vanilla although of course this will enhance the sweetness rather than adding some sharpness of the liquor. I have used a variety of jars we have saved throughout the year (one of them is the Strawberry Conserve of Bonne Maman...).
For 5 medium jars
1 kg jam sugar
2 lemons (juice)
1 tbsp brandy
De-stone the cherries - this is a really messy business and I suggest that you cover the surface where you do it with some plastic bags or table cloth. Note the bloody strips on the bowl below!
Place the destoned cherries in a large and thick pan. Add the juice and bring to boil for a few minutes until the cherries have softened.
Add the sugar and continue boiling for another 15 minutes. Add the brandy and stir for a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the jars without the lid in the oven at C120 for a few minutes to sterilize them. Place the lids in a pan with boiling water. Dry them and set aside. Take the jars out of the oven and using a small ladle spoon the jam out of the pan and place it in the jars. Close immediately with the lid and turn them upside down. You will hear a click on the lid which means that you have closed the jam hermetically and can be safely eaten later on.
Next recipes: sweet cherry focaccia and almond and cherry cake. Watch this space!