Sunday, June 5, 2011

Life is Just an Ocean of Cherries; What to Do About It

    Somewhere around 1998 we planted a cherry tree at La Casetta Rosa, our house down the road. We just love cherries. For years, we had a few cherries here and there, most of which were enjoyed by the birds and the wasps before we ever got to them. This year, though, things were a bit different. Our cherry tree went on a growth spurt never seen by the likes of humans and 2011 will be a harvest for the ages. We picked cherries and gave them to friends, we picked cherries and ate them and ate them and ate them and gave more to friends.
    Finally, we recognized a problem: we needed to do something about the cherries filling up our kitchen and quick. Otherwise, they would all be ruined. Last Sunday morning I got up early and consulted my recipe books. I went into storeroom #2 and found a dusty box of empty canning jars, left over from the summer Jim and Carolyn stayed and went crazy making fig preserves. 
    I decided to start with Ciliegie sotto Spirito, a tasty concoction of 1) cherries 2) sugar and 3) pure grain alcohol. I found a bottle of the spirits in the back of the pantry, where it had lain since the year we made plum wine. (That's a whole 'nother story; suffice it to say that one of the bottles was left in the sun by some workers painting the living room and it blew up, scattering broken glass and plum wine all over the terrace, where every bee within flying distance arrived within thirty seconds to drown in sweet delight. A real mess).
     So, I started with the white lightning recipe, filling several liter jars. Next, I moved on to pickled cherries with white wine, white vinegar and fresh tarragon (called dragoncello in Italian, such a wonderful name). After that, I still had a few empty jars, so we tried pickled cherries in red wine, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Then we were out of jars and, as it was Sunday, the stores were closed. There were still a lot of cherries, even counting what we would eat with our lunch guests, with our dinner, and for breakfast the next day.
     Back to the computer. There is no cherry pitting implement in our kitchen, so I needed a recipe for how to freeze cherries with the stones in. Found out you wash them, dry them, spread them out in single layers to freeze separately and then put them together in Ziplock bags in the freezer. This was all well and good, but my freezer, which isn't the largest, was full of figs and plums from last year, along with a variety of things including a bag of Parmesan rinds for winter soups, half a frozen polenta cake from Christmas, and half a bottle of sorbetto limone with pro secco. The cake and some other over-aged packages (Il Magnifico calls them left-evers) got tossed, the sorbetto was consumed and we were in business freezing cherries. Supposedly, they will last a year and will taste like fresh fruit when defrosted. I will report back.

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