My cherry tree has gone crazy. Every branch is covered with beautiful cherries. The tree was labeled “semi-dwarf”, but apparently it couldn’t read, because it is at least 20 feet tall – maybe more.
I picked 8 gallons of them, and the tree is not yet completely picked.
The first thing that people ask me when I bring in a big bowl of cherries is “don’t they get worms?” No, they don’t. The next question is “What do you do keep them away?” Well, I grow organic, so really nothing. I sometimes have discussions with my fruit trees about their responsibilities to me: Give me lots of fruit – and mine to them: don’t chop them down, chase the magpies away occasionally, and if it doesn’t rain for a week or so, give them some water. I often go out and smile at them and thank them for their spring blooms and their generosity.
I had to call a halt to the picking, because I ran out of space to store cherries. Fortunately, I just discovered that you can freeze cherries. It’s really simple. You wash them, let them dry a bit, and then freeze them in a single layer so that they each freeze separately. Then your frozen cherries don’t stick together in a big clumps and you can take out as many as you need.
You pour the hard little cherries into a freezer bag. I didn’t even pit them. I figured they would be mostly for cooking when they defrosted, rather than being beautiful specimens to eat out of hand – so the pitting can come when I defrost them.
By the way, if you are going to deal with cherries, you need some form of cherry pitter.
Mine is just a small hand pitter that works for a few cups at a time. If you are doing a large number of cherries, you might need to get the kind that you feed the cherries into in bunches.
The other thing you can do when life give you an overabundance of cherries is hunt up cherry recipes. This cake, originally from Eating Well, was already pretty low fat – 8 grams/serving – but I made it a bit lower by reducing the amount of oil. I left all the butter, because I thought it was necessary for the flavor. I also used egg substitute because I didn’t have eggs in the house. I didn’t have kirsch, so I used Cointreau, an orange liquor. If you use frozen cherries measure them while they are still frozen. The texture of the cake is a bit dry – like coffee cake, which worked well with the cherry filling. It was a huge hit at the picnic I took it to. There was barely a piece to take home to have with my afternoon tea.
Sweet Cherry Bundt Cake
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) dark sweet cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons kirsch (clear cherry brandy), or orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 2/3 cups cake flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons butter, slightly softened
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cups nonfat vanilla, or lemon yogurt
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. Very generously coat a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with cooking spray. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
To prepare cherry filling: Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Stir in cherries, kirsch (or other liquor or orange juice), lemon zest and almond extract. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture looks like very thick jam and has reduced to about 1 cup, 5 to 7 minutes.
To prepare cake: Sift cake flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter and oil in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low, then medium speed, until very light and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes, scraping the sides as needed. Add the applesauce, half the yogurt and beat until very smooth. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half the dry ingredients until incorporated. Beat in the remaining yogurt, egg substitute, vanilla and almond extract until combined, scraping the sides as needed. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients just until incorporated. Do not overbeat.
Spoon a generous half of the batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the edges. Spoon the cherry mixture over the batter.
Top with the remaining batter. Grease a butter knife and swirl it vertically through the batter and cherries.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part comes out with no crumbs clinging to it and the top springs back when lightly pressed, 50 to 65 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand in the pan until the cake is completely cooled, about 1 1/2 hours. Very carefully run a knife around the edges and center tube to loosen the cake from sides and bottom. Rap the pan sharply against the counter several times to loosen completely. Invert the pan onto a serving plate and slide the cake out. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar before serving. Makes 12 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.
Cake on improvised platter to take to a picnic.
My last piece of cake, cut into tea-sized slices for my afternoon enjoyment.