from one generation to the next
Twenty years ago we lived in the house of our dreams on a semi rural hilltop surrounded by cherry orchards. We all looked forward to Melbourne Cup Day, the first Tuesday in November, which marked the beginning of the local cherry pick, not only for the feverish activity it brought to out peaceful idyll but also for the delicious fruit that was regularly left on our doorstep.
The pickers were generally a ragtag mob of backpackers who pitched their tents by the sorting shed on our fence line, but there was never a worry about late night rowdy parties, exhaustion from working up a ladder in the hot sun took care of that. Each year they were supervised by the same Canadian guy who would arrive a month ahead to plant a veggie garden to keep himself, the pickers and the neighbours supplied with fresh salad veggies over the summer period.
In their early teens our daughters joined the pickers, their first paid work. They were willing workers, and were readily re-employed each season. The pay was much more generous than pocket money. Cherries have played a big role in or lives.
I love the big fat juicy late fruiting Bing variety for eating and think them too good for cooking. It’s the variety I choose to take pride of place with our Christmas desserts. Smaller, softer cherries often have stronger maraschino overtones making them perfect for jam, tarts, pies and clafoutis.
A recipe from Simon Bryant’s “Vegies” inspired me to pickle a jar of small non descript cherries to serve with baked brie. This was a test batch so I limited it to only 500g of fruit, but the slightly sweet, slightly sour flavour was so complementary to the rich warm cheese, I’ll be making a larger batch in the next day or two. The hardest part of this recipe is waiting the 7 days for the cherries to pickle.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1cup of water
Wash a large jar and it’s lid in hot soapy water. Place in an oven heated to 120C for 30 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool.
While the jar is sterilising, wash the cherries.
Using a toothpick, pierce each fruit with a toothpick down to the stone in 2-3 places.
Put the sugar, vinegar and water into a small pot and gently warm, stirring continuously until the sugar is dissolved.
Pack the cherries into the jar, then pour the pickling liquid over the cherries ensuring they are well submerged.
Seal with the lid, then refrigerate for 7 days* before serving with warm oozy brie, Christmas ham, roasted duck or lamb.
*Update: After 10 weeks, the maraschino flavours from the pits had permeated the cherries. They are much better after a longer time than I originally recommended in the pickling liquid.