12 Jul 2014

Stoned!

So we're having a summer of festivals, sunshine, music, happiness, flowers in your hair and chilling… but don't get excited - when I'm talking about being stoned, I'm only talking about cherry stones (or pits/pips, whatever).

You might remember that the cherry trees under my custodian-ship are both Morello, bought at the beginning of the community garden when there were quite a few of us. I'm not sure how the decision was reached to buy two sour cherry trees but every year those two trees are my best producers and, ironically, I don't even like sour cherries. Neighbours were told to help themselves as the fruit ripened but it didn't happen. I returned from a few days away to find deep dark cherries on the point of spoiling with none picked.

Not being one to waste good food, I checked through my cookery books (so many recipes for sweet cherries!) and googled for more inspiration. Not fancying a cherry chutney or pickle (good with duck), I thought I might be safe with a cherry crumble from an American website. The country is renowned for its cherry pies and cobblers so what could go wrong?  Salt, as it happens.



But first, time to gather the fruit in. I popped down to the garden with scissors and a trug. Having this year got wise to the fact that ants love the fruit juice and were swarming all over the fruit (unlike my experience last year), I returned home with just under a kilo of fruit and, it turned out, 4 small spiders, numerous teeny tiny caterpillars and 2 ants. As I picked, I'd discarded another kilo of fruit as it had little boreholes in it - either something had crawled in or out of those holes, best not to risk it - or had just become too overripe. With home-grown, it's always wise to check and wash, then check again. Yin/yang, there's a balance to everything with organic, pesticide-free gardening.

Back in the kitchen the cherries were weighed and picked over again - on a black surface so that I could see any bugs crawling away -


more had to be thrown, the remainder washed, dried,


weighed,


stones removed, kitchen washed down (they were very juicy!)


and, finally, I was able to get on with the business of being a domestic goddess. The recipe was translated (almond flour?  eh? (ground almonds) - and cups versus grams) and about half an hour later, this was ready to go into the oven


with one spare for the freezer.

One word of caution: this should have been utterly delicious; ground almond crumble over vanilla scented sweetened cherries … BUT! why oh why did the recipe call for salt? In both the crumble and, more bizarrely, in the cherry mix. Also, lemon juice and zest in with sour cherries? With hindsight, no, not good. (Unless, of course, you're a big fan of Heston Blumenthal.) I blame my obsession with following a recipe to the letter the first time I make something; next time I'll trust my judgement.  Looks nice though, doesn't it?


So it's bye, bye American Pie but I'm going to see if I can rescue/start again with the second crumble and cook it with sugar and a good slosh of last year's delicious sloe vodka.

Just in case I haven't totally put you off, the recipe I used is here on the Epicurious website:  Sour Cherry Crumble 
It wasn't unpleasant, it's just that the hint of salt enhanced the 'sour' element of what I was eating and I was kinda trying to get away from that.

With a few amendments - if you have sour cherries to use up and want to give this a go - the crumble top would be sublime if the salt is omitted. The filling needs adjusting - leave out the salt and lemon juice, use 2 spoons of cornflour or arrowroot instead of 3 spoons of 'flour' (I did) and add a touch more sugar and vanilla - and possibly some booze.  Then, I think, it would be crumble-icious.

Finally, having stripped the tree of its fruit, now is a good time for pruning.

Edited to add: If you don't have your own cherry tree and have to buy cherries in, look for cherries that still have the stalks attached. The stalks should be green, indicating that the fruit is freshly picked and therefore still full of healthy goodness.

26 comments:

  1. This is why I seldom follow a recipe. But Bravo for trying it! It sounds as if without the salt it would have been very good.

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    1. I like the reassurance of following a recipe, Mark but, made once, I generally tweak it to my liking. (Post it notes are to be found throughout my books!) I'll stick to making my own filling in future!

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  2. Brilliant crop (and crumble, which does sound divine, suitable amended). But what gets me is how you had so many cherries to begin with. No blackbirds in North London? Or is it that they don't like the sour ones either?

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    1. Judging by the half eaten cherries I found, I think sour cherries are unpopular with birds and children alike! If I can find a reliable way of sweetening them, without using tons of sugar, I'd consider this a win:win situation!

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  3. Gotta say...I love your blue and white dishes. Are they enamel?

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    1. Ooh, well spotted, Erin, yes, they are :) !! I adore old fashioned kitchenware and have several enamel pie plates and big old jugs for flowers and sauces. My pie plates are not old, they came from a well known UK retailer, Lakeland. (Thought you might be interested as you have a very nice bits and bobs shop!) Cx

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  4. That is a bumper crop indeed, impressive! Looks tasty! I must admit I never follow a recipe for crumble, I just use plain flour, oats, sugar and butter until it looks right...probably use too much of everything that way but as long as you get that crunch with the slightly burnt edges, mmmm!

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    1. Hello Katie, Thanks for visiting and commenting. Love your blog and shepherd's hut, by the way. I've been known to grind up hazelnuts to go into my crumble toppings when ground almonds aren't to hand - they work really well! I did wonder about chucking a handful of oats into this one, as I usually do, but decided to stick to the recipe. Yours sounds really good - crumble is always a favourite! (I wish I grew apricots, that's my favourite crumble topping.)

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  5. Well done, I would never have the patience to do all that. Cherry crumble is something that I've never eaten. Flighty xx

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    1. I love to cook, Flighty, so preparing a dish is therapeutic rather than needing patience. I bet you've had apple and blackberry crumble though, perhaps one of your mum's best dishes?

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  6. The sour cherries lobe up to their name don't they? We used to have one on the garden and it was kept for purely decorative purpose - even the birds shunned the fruit and we found that the cherries needed the addition of far too much sugar to make them palatable. Some recipes do have a bizarre obsession with salt!

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    1. I did try eating one raw when they first ripened this year, Sue - it was like eating a lemon! I wonder if making them into wine or a liqueur would be better (my cousin's suggestion!) Failing that, I think I'd better start a sweet cherry tree and buy some nets!

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  7. Oh, how frustrating, so near and yet so far! Ground almonds in crumble topping though, that's inspired. Your doctoring plan sounds excellent. Like you I tend to (mostly) follow a recipe first time around. Thank you for trailblazing ;-)

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    1. Very frustrating, Janet - especially as I was envisaging a very tasty pudding! Never one to shirk from a tasty sounding recipe, I shall continue to trailblaze on the culinary front!

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  8. Great harvest! It looks so yummy, so delicious. I only dream how about the taste. I really want to know about the taste of the fresh cherry. We only find processed (sweetened) cherry here. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Ah yes, processed cherries are called glacé cherries here in the UK and are used in cake making. They're really very very sweet and bear no resemblance to the original sweet fresh cherries which I assume they're made from.

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  9. Wonderful that you had enough fruit for two puddings. Do you grow Sweet Cicely, Myrrhis odorata, you could use some instead of the sugar, but I don't know what quantities you would need. It sounds a lovely crumble recipe especially with the ground almonds added.

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    1. I do grow Sweet Cicely, Pauline, and use it when stewing rhubarb. I think its slightly aniseed taste goes very well with rhubarb but hadn't thought about using it with the cherries. Sarah Raven wrote an article recently about using better natural sweeteners in cooking and suggested maple syrup as it releases energy more slowly than sugar. She also tried stevia but found it left a very chemical aftertaste in the cordial she was making. Luckily I don't grow that herb!

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  10. Oh what a shame, I must say the crumble does look utterly delicious! I never go for salt in sour dishes.xxx

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    1. No, never again for me either! I've learned my lesson - looks are deceiving!

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  11. Oh lucky you Caro, I love cherries. My neighbour planted a tree a couple of years ago that overhangs our garden slightly. He gave me some last year and I stewed them with sugar and put them over Greek yoghurt. It was absolutely divine, it made the yoghurt taste like thick cream. Of course, you could just serve it with thick cream... I hope you've got lots more you can pick. The crumble with almonds sounds like it would be delicious without the salt, I'm a big fan of ground almonds. I've actually had a similar problem with a recipe recently. I cut the salt down, but not by enough. As you say, it's always best to trust your instinct. CJ xx

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    1. Cherries ripening on the tree always create a bit of excitement but these sour cherries don't live up to expectations! In future I'll stick to stewing with sugar, as you do - and am wondering about adding a couple of sweet cherry trees to the garden. (They do seem to start fruiting quite quickly, maybe within a couple of years.) The salt overload may just be my tastebuds as I use very little salt in my cooking (a pinch, if that) but, even so …. yeeuch!

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  12. Great crop Caro - it's a wonder the blackbirds didn't get them all. What a shame about the taste of the crumble, salt does seem a weird ingredient I must say - still you live and learn.

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    1. You've made me think now, Elaine. I don't recall seeing blackbirds around the flats - lots of starlings and, of course, pigeons, sparrows, robins, wood pigeons, blue tits - even the odd seagull flying overhead (a mile or two from the Thames but I'm sure that's where they originate from). There are huge crows and even parakeets on the Heath but I don't recall seeing blackbirds. I'll have to be more vigilant!
      The birds have tried the cherries (I found nibblings) but I think they were too sour even for them!

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  13. Salt does seem an add ingredient but like you I do tend to follow a recipe the first time around. I've had very lovely morello cherry jam so maybe that's one for next year. I once used plain flour instead of self-raising and my cake came out the oven as thin as when it went in..... ;)

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    1. Luckily I've never made a mistake with the flour in cake making having learned the art of baking at a very young age from my mum but I'm sure there's plenty of other stuff that I've conveniently swiped from my memory! The Morello cherry jam sounds delicious but I think I've read that, despite the sourness of the fruit, Morellos don't have much pectin so it was a question of synchronicity with the red currants being ripe enough to add to the jam. Fingers crossed for next year!! :) xx

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Caro x

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