There is nothing like a chilled bowl of perfectly ripe cherries on a hot summer day.
Last year was a bust for stone fruit in my area owing to a nasty and ill-timed hailstorm. I do confess to breaking down and purchasing some Washington State imports in a moment of weakness after a sweaty bike ride out to Brighton Beach. They were good, but nothing like the ones I picked myself up at Fishkill Farms a few summers back.
That day called to mind strawberry picking with my mom as a small child. Why anyone would choose to let me wear white for such an activity, now or then, is beyond me. Based on my empty bucket and the stains down the front of my shirt, the folks at the cash register would have done well to weigh me upon entering and exiting and simply charge my mom for the difference.
But I digress. Last week’s CSA share brought a quart of honest-to-goodness local cherries. Alas, they were more tart than I had hoped and so they sat in my fridge for a few days while I mulled what to do.
A lovely pork blade chop from Flying Pigs Farm founds its way into my bag at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. I’d stopped by with the intention of buying bacon to complement the first promising tomatoes I’d spotted this year. But one thing lead to another and, suddenly, I was tucking 12 ounces of beautifully striated pork into my bag. (It turns out I’m a sucker for a handsome man who speaks of pork the way most people talk about their first love.)
I had a small bundle of rhubarb that had been sitting in the back of the crisper for a couple of weeks. I imagined that the cherries and rhubarb would make a lovely sauce for my chop, but that would only make a dent in my fruit stockpile.
Then I remembered the previous night’s booze crime…
Louis and I had a date for a screening of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. We met up for dinner beforehand—mussels and frites for me, couscous with merguez for the gentleman. It was a lovely night, so lovely that I found myself declaring, “It’s such a lovely night!” as we swanned out of the café. Halfway down the block, with no awnings in sight on this lovely brownstone-lined side street, the skies opened. Within a matter of minutes, Louis and I looked as if we’d jumped in a pool fully clothed.
We took refuge in a nearby bar, ordering a round while we hatched a plan (and dripped all over the floor). Having determined that Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte was available for streaming, we headed back to my apartment and traded our drenched clothing for sweatpants and T-shirts. The previous week’s cat sitter had left a nice bottle of bubbly, which seemed like just the thing for such a festive occasion.
Fifteen minutes after the pop of the cork, I was asleep on the couch, my head resting on my dear friend’s shoulder. While Louis managed to stay awake for the whole movie, he didn’t do much better than me at drinking the wine, which I guiltily shoved into the fridge, uncorked, on my way to bed.
And so I give you this delightfully decadent dish…
Champagne, Sour Cherry & Rhubarb Preserves
- 1 cup chopped rhubarb, tossed with 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 quart sour cherries, halved and pitted
- 1 cup pink champagne (or whatever leftover bubbly you happen to have on hand)
- 2 tablespoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons calcium water (see instructions in the pectin box)
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Bring the bubbly to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Combine the sugar and pectin powder in a separate bowl. Add fruit to your pot and bring back to a boil. Add sugar, cardamom, almond extract and vanilla, stirring vigorously for 3 or 4 minutes. Take off the heat. When the preserves are cool enough to handle, ladle into a couple of 1.5-cup mason jars (or whatever you have on hand). Let cool most of the way on the counter. Then screw the lids on and pop them in the fridge.
Don’t panic (as I did) if the preserves seem loose at first. This is what mine looked like after eight hours in fridge. The internet tells me it can take up to 48.
Have it on toast. Serve alongside a soft, creamy cheese. I’ve been dropping a generous spoonful of these preserves into plain yogurt as an afternoon snack and can report that this is also a good strategy.