It is cherry season and we are swamped with little, red flavour-bombs. Nobody here is complaining, although I do have to regularly check the carpet for spit out pips.
First, we discovered that one of the lovely blossom-trees that we can see from our sitting room window was bursting with cherries. It was the birds that alerted us, because the branches are a bit too high for easy picking.
Over a few days, we observed blackbirds and then rosellas having feathery feasts, and realised that if we waited another minute we would miss out, so we devised a system to gather some for ourselves.
I climbed a ladder and bent a branch down to the children below, who happily grasped the tart fruit and collected them in a basket. There was no danger of the birds missing out; we simply couldn’t reach many.
Our cherries were not quite ripe and very sour so I bought a huge punnet from the green-grocer because we wanted to munch on the sweet stuff.
A few days later, family visiting from interstate chose to go cherry-picking as a day out together. This was a full-blown operation, involving buckets and scales. We laughed about how we would pay for the cherries; at first my little guys assumed the orchard-owners would count the cherries to determine the price.
So now my kitchen is overflowing with these juicy treasures! I left the ones from our garden out to ripen for a few days and investigated some recipe ideas. Cherries feature in the traditional cuisine of many cultures, notably in Central and Eastern Europe, and there are lovely recipes online including some for the Romanian Cherry Brandy called Vişinată or a similar Russian version called Vishnnyovka. There are also great blog posts showing how to make Polish Cherry Cake or the famous German Black Forest Cake.
Many of the recipes have ties to the holidays that happen at this time of year, even though our seasons do not coincide: that’s because often they require the addition of cherries that have been allowed to ferment or “pickle” in brandy or vodka for about six months before being used in Christmas or Chanukah recipes.
Most of our cherries are disappearing as snacks but in addition to the sour home-grown ones that I am trying to ferment in a jar of sugar, I attempted my own version of a tart with a nutty-crumble topping. I happened to have walnuts in the shell from the farmers market, so I roughly ground those and added some for texture. I relied mostly on the cherries themselves for sweetness. Serve it with cream or maybe some quark, this tart is yummy and satisfying.
Here is what I did:
Cherry Nut-Crumble Tart
500g cherries (about 2.5 cups), measured and then pitted
1 or 2 sheets of short crust pastry from the freezer
For the crumble topping:
1/2 cup freshly crushed walnuts
3/4 cup of almond and quinoa meal
1 cup of wholemeal flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar
150g butter, room temperature
1TB Golden syup or honey
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Stir the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and honey, then combine until you have a crumbly mixture (I used my hands). Grease a tart pan and line it with the pastry. I needed the second sheet of pastry because one was not big enough. Spread the pitted cherries around the bottom of the pastry, then press the nutty crumble mixture in around and over the cherries, leaving some peeking through to look delicious. We used the rest of the second sheet of pastry to cut some heart decorations for the top of the tart. Bake for about 40 minutes. Serve with something creamy.