How to: cook with cherries
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Even though only gardeners in cold climates will be picking their own cherries over the summer, we’ll all find ways to celebrate Christmas with a fruit that is still stubbornly, deliciously seasonal.
You have to be keen to grow cherries in the backyard. But if you are, and you have a climate that demands a beanie in winter, choose a self-fertile variety, such as ‘Stella’, unless space permits a few different varieties.
Net as soon as the cherries show signs of ripening, or the harvest will be lost to the birds. Those of us forced to buy instead of pick, are best advised to purchase a whole box rather than pick handfuls from the over-handled fruit at the greengrocer. A box, kept in the fridge, will last at least a week, and handfuls of cherries can simply be rinsed as desired. Some orchards in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania offer pick-your-own opportunities; others offer on-line mail order. Google ‘buy cherries’ and your local area to find out what’s available.
Bring 1.5 cups of red wine vinegar, a cup of red wine and half a cup of port to the boil with two broken cinnamon sticks, two star anise, six cloves, and a teaspoon of black peppercorns. Boil for a few minutes, let cool slightly then pour over 500g of washed cherries in a sterilized jar. Store in the fridge and serve with Christmas ham or turkey.
Cherry and prosciutto salad
Wash a butter lettuce and tear into bite-size pieces in a large bowl. Add the pale leaves of a celery heart. Mix raspberry vinegar, olive oil and sugar to taste. Dress the leaves gently, and place on a platter. Drape slices of prosciutto and torn buffalo mozzarella around the leaves, then top with pitted cherries. Finish with more of the dressing.
Red berry mess
Wash and halve an equal amount of strawberries and cherries, removing the pips. Pile them into a saucepan with an equal of amount of fresh or frozen raspberries, a dribble of water and a sprinkling of caster sugar. Cook until just soft and starting to fall apart. Let cool, then fold through whipped cream and crumbled meringue, reserving some fruit syrup to drizzle over the top before serving.
Text: Robin Powell