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Fresh cherries — Queen of the Valley

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Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 10:36 am

Cherry memories from my childhood are scattered and vague due to the fact that during my growing up years in Saratoga we did not have a cherry tree in the garden. As we ate mostly fruits and vegetables cultivated in the backyard, I don’t remember making cherry pie or canning cherry jam with my mom. But I do remember picking and eating cherries in Italy from trees grown in my great uncle’s orchard. In fact, even my husband remembers going to meet my great uncle and sitting in his kitchen drinking an espresso and eating from the bowl of cherries in the middle of the farm table. To our amazement, Zio Isidoro would spit the pits back in his fist and then drop them on the stone floor to be swept away later that evening.

The traditional Bing cherry now plays senior citizen to the new varieties that have been introduced in the last 30 years. Look for Ranier, Lambert, Burlat, Tulare, Coral Champagne, Flavor Giant, GG-100, Sequoia and Brooks (a cross of Rainier and Burlat) at your local farmers markets. However, the best flavor comes from perfectly ripe cherries that are picked at their peak. So try to hand-pick the best fruit from U-pick farms or friends’ trees whenever the opportunity arises.

One of my most prized kitchen possessions is a simple, antique cherry pitter that I inherited from Grandma Souza. It sits patiently in the kitchen drawer all year in anticipation of cherry season! This obscure implement has served me well over the years as I have experimented cooking and baking with fresh cherries. Here’s a sample of a few creations. Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia.

Cherry syrup

2 cups cherries

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Dash pure vanilla extract

Dash ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Place over low heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chocolate dipped cherries

(as seen at Children’s Home Garden Fair)

Cherries on the stem

Melted chocolate

Wipe cherries with cloth or paper towel to remove any dust. Leave stem on cherries and pit. Dip into melted chocolate and place on baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper to set.

Best served same day!

Fresh cherry focaccia

1 package A Tavola Together Original Focaccia Mix

1 1/4 cups club soda or sparkling water

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Prepare focaccia dough as directed on package. Pour melted butter into a 9x12-inch rimmed baking pan.

Transfer dough to pan. Spread and flip so both sides are covered with butter. Push cherries evenly into dough. Mix sugar with cinnamon and nutmeg then sprinkle evenly over cherries. Allow to rest for 30 minutes then bake according to package directions.

Gluten Free Fresh Cherry Cobbler

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup A Tavola Together Gluten Free Focaccia Mix

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Stir 1/4 cup sugar into pitted cherries. Set aside. Pour melted butter into an 8 x8-inch baking dish. Stir together Gluten Free mix, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla.

Pour the batter into the pan on top of the butter. Do not stir! Place cherries evenly over batter. Do not stir. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar. Bake 20 minutes or until done.

Claudia Pruett was raised in Saratoga. She is an entrepreneur, chef and community volunteer and is co-owner of A Travola Together, a Stockton-based company that specializes in regular and gluten-free focaccia, pizza and tortilla mix. She is married to Greg and they have three children. She enjoys cooking for friends and Bikram Yoga.




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