sharing recipes from one generation to the next
Plump fresh cherries were a childhood Christmas luxury. Cherries heralded the imminent onset of summer, but sadly their season was short, by New Year they had all but disappeared. Imported Californian cherries are now available in the depths of our winter and an increased range of cherry varieties means that the local season now lasts for almost 3 months.
To be honest, I have no recollection of the flavour of childhood cherries, but their presence on the table has remained synonymous with Christmas. I remember being encouraged by my paternal Grandma to hang paired cherries over my ears to resemble red bauble earrings. She also taught us a counting rhyme which we chanted as we numbered off the pips, “tinker tailor soldier sailor rich man poor man beggar man thief, doctor lawyer merchant chief. ” The name we ended on foretelling the man you’d marry, a game which reflected her inner London working class upbringing at the end of the Victorian era.
We only got away with this at Christmas because mine was in a family where playing with your food was frowned upon!
In the late eighties with our own young family, we moved to a rural property surrounded by cherry orchards. The massed cherry trees were briefly, exquisitely beautiful, but……..the orchardists regularly and frequently sprayed the trees with pesticide and fungicide, which burst the romantic bubble enclosing our dream home, so we relocated to the city. Ironically, cherries are no longer grown in that area as global warming has changed it’s suitability.
Last week we drove through the town of Young in New South Wales, Australia’s largest cherry growing region. A good cherry season is in full swing and farm gate stalls lured us the buy a couple of kilos each of two different varieties of the best. On the same day Stéphane from My French Heaven wrote a post urging followers to eat just one single food with minimal cooking and just the simplest of seasoning, a foodie meditation on the characteristic sight, sound, texture, flavour and feel of your chosen ingredient.
Most of the black cherries we scoffed along our journey north, the remainder I have steeping in brandy.
A good sized handful of the mystery variety premium table cherries priced at $20 for a 2 kg box, I subjected to a close and pleasurable scrutiny, described after the photos.
My fruit was plump and varied in hue from dark to bright cherry red. There were a few flaws on the taut shiny skins caused by stems abutting fleshy fruit in transit. The cherries had all been separated into single fruits in the sorting shed, so cherry earrings were out of the question!
I picked up my fruit by the stem and put it into my mouth whole. With the fruit firmly held behind my front teeth I pulled off the stem with a “pop.” There was a pleasant element of resistance as I bit into the flesh, then my mouth filled with fresh sweet juice. I stripped the pip of flesh rolling it with my tongue as I went, before greedily taking another cherry.
I bit into the second cherry, then while savouring the flavour I looked closely at it’s interior. The formation of the flesh radiating symmetrically from the pip and constrained by the thin layer of skin is just one of Mother nature’s miracles.
The cherries were sweet, they left a lingering freshness on my palate, but they lacked a distinct cherry flavour. Do I blame the variety, modern farming practice or my palate. Perhaps critical scrutiny is to blame!
Thanks Stephane for the fun, oh and by the way, it seems I should have married a tailor!!!
This is a gorgeous post. I love the way that food can transport us right back to when we were small children sitting around the dinner table! I don’t remember the first time I ate a cherry but I do think that it was when I was a young teen. We never had much money growing up so cherries were a bit of a ‘luxury fruit’ (I don’t think they’re grown in Western Australia?). They seem to be a bit cheaper now, or at the very least we have more money, so they often make an appearance at the Christmas table. I love them, and their seasonality definitely makes them perfect for Christmas treats! Thanks for sharing these memories with us x
You’re very welcome Laura! There’s a lot more to food than just cooking.
I love love love the post! Your description of the whole process is inspiring on many different levels. Great job! (as usual)
Thanks Stephane it was fun and I’m considering making it a regular feature of my blog!
Lovely, lovely post! Beautifully descriptive. Cherry jam is on my list of activities for the school holidays. We plan to visit a pick-your-own farm, and I’ll be sure to encourage my boys to make their own earrings from the pickings. Wishing you a lovely Christmas. x
I saw Stephan’s post as well, isn’t it a great idea? My mindful eating post is coming after Christmas…
Slowing down and truly savouring an experience is something that’s a rare treat for me, always so busy, busy! I think I’ll make a regular feature of mindful consumption as a means of exquisite food experience. I look forward to your new year post! Have a wonderful Christmas
We are of one mind when it comes to cherries. They are fantastic, aren’t they? I’m partial to the sour cherries for baking and other recipes but, for snacking, you can’t beat black cherries. You description of eating one is a “How to” for anyone lucky enough to have a container of the ripe beauties in front of them.
great post! and sad to hear Wandin cherries are no more… there is a lot of memories in and around those orchards. xx