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!!!