Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wherein Your Intrepid Correspondent Faces an Unfortunate Situation

I am sure, dear reader, that you have experienced the anxiety of thinking that you have missed a deadline followed by the immense relief of discovering that the deadline has not, in fact, passed.

I speak, of course, of the tart cherry season, an occurrence so ephemeral as to be over nearly before it starts. Really, those clever little cherries seem to ripen all at once, as if directed by a stern ballet mistress, and the vultures (referred to by people with less clear vision than mine as "fellow cherry pickers") descend upon them so quickly that if the season starts on Friday evening, by Saturday evening, you are nearly out of luck, though being tall and/or willing to climb ladders extends your season slightly.

I was sitting at my desk this morning, eating a clementine, which, naturally, brought into mind the clementine ratafia (props to Toast for the idea) that I hope to make from the remnants of the box of South African clementines that I picked up at Costco this weekend. And that, in turn, put me in mind of the tart cherry cordial that I made very early last summer with a portion of my tart cherry haul. Which in turn made me fear that I might have missed the season. This, reader, is a disaster too horrific to be imagined. Imagine moving into summer without making a cherry pie. Then imagine moving into summer without eating one. I regret the nightmares I have doubtless caused you, but comfort yourself with the knowledge that the season has not yet arrived.

I checked the web site of my usual source for tart cherries, and they advise that I should check back on June 20th for the exact picking date. They further advise that they have a good crop coming. Yay!

Alas, I have vacation scheduled all next week, and we are set to head off to Southwestern Pennsylvania, in the mountains, on the 18th and to return no earlier than the 25th, by which point the cherries are likely to be no more than a distant memory, and not even that for me since I will have missed the entire season. I presume, however, that if they are ripe on the 20th or 22nd in central Maryland, that I can find some a week later in the general vicinity of Gettysburg, so I continue to have great hope that multiple cherry pies are within my grasp.

Probably no more cherry cordial, though. A friend of mine from church gave me his recipe for what he said was a really good recipe. For each pound of tart cherries, add a fifth of good Bourbon and a pound of rock candy (i.e., crystallized sugar), and steep for several months. I did not find a good source of rock candy, and I didn't want to make it last year, so I substituted an equal weight of granulated sugar and made about a triple batch of the cherry stuff. And I regret to report that I have a great deal of cough syrup, still sitting and steeping in a closet at home.

All is not lost, however. I will mix the overly sweet cherry cordial with a quantity of lime juice and add some seltzer water, and I'm pretty sure I'll have something yummy. I think that the same thing would be very good with Coke instead of seltzer, but I have long since stopped being able to drink Coke, even with lime, because of the sweetness, and while I'm thoroughly addicted to various Diet Cokes (regular, caffeine-free, and with lime; in some combination or other, I drink at least one two-liter bottle at work every day; I am, no doubt, an evil person, but I love it so; and don't give me that judgmental look, either; I know you eat Doritos out of the bag when no one's looking), they seem like the absolutely wrong thing to mix with syrupy cherry liqueur.

In the past, I have had excellent luck with preserving tart cherries (among other things) in rum, with a smaller amount of sugar (I could repeat here the old saw that you can always add more, but you can't take it out, but that would be wrong). Tart cherries really live up to their name, however, so it is probably wise to use at least half as much sugar, by weight, as you have cherries. You can use a darker rum for flavor, or a lighter rum to have a prettier color. You may also add some appropriate spices, but I find them unnecessary. The cherries themselves will fade in color somewhat, but they will still be presentable. My preferred method of serving them is to place two of them in a tiny liqueur glass along with a tablespoon or so of the rum they have been sitting in. This presentation makes a splendid final course to a fancy dinner. Coffee is a nice accompaniment.


Blogger David said...

I have never seen a gay blog so steadfastly dedicated to food. I am awed.

11:13 AM  
Blogger anapestic said...

Thanks! I don't usually get awe until I've served people the sixth course and they find that they've lost both the will and the ability to move.

I believe in writing about what you love most that won't get you in trouble with your partner, your children, or your ex-wife's attorney. (Not that any of them read me. I hope.) Hence, food.

12:15 PM  

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