When I sound the fairy call, gather here in silent meeting, Chin to knee on the orchard wall, cooled with dew and cherries eating. Merry, merry, take a cherry, mine are sounder, mine are rounder, Mine are sweeter for the eater, when the dews fall, and you’ll be fairies all. – Emily Dickinson
“The old cherry tree in my garden is so overloaded with fruit that the branches are hanging low to the ground. My neighbor is complaining and all the branches that are on his side of the fence have to be cut down. If you want the cherries, you have until 4:00 this afternoon when the guy comes to carry the branches away.” So said Raymonde three mornings ago. There was no time to think, no time to hesitate. As soon as breakfast was over and the receptionist arrived to free Jean-Pierre, we grabbed two crates and over we went.
I have been up to my elbows in cherries, fingers dripping cherry juice, table and shirt spattered with blood red, sweeter than sweet. Plastic ziplock bags, each holding 1 kilo of cherry pulp, are lined up in the freezer, a gorgeous sight to behold. 8 of them. Downstairs, About 5 kilos of unpitted cherries have been rinsed, each stem pulled off and discarded, weighed into more plastic bags, and frozen. And 8 more kilos have been pitted and turned into jam.
The first yield came from the little man who lends us the garden up on the hillside. He had sent JP a message a couple weeks ago that his tree was heavy with fruit and we could come and pick whatever we wanted; all we had to do was leave all the cherries that clung to the lower branches, those easily reached by his 6-year-old granddaughter. We didn’t even stay an hour, yet we carried away two heavy baskets of fruit. Tiny little things, too tiny for my cherry pitter. So I spent 4 afternoons picking them over, rinsing them, pulling out stems, weighing the fruit, and then poaching a few kilos at time in a bit of sugar and bourbon. Once beginning to cool, I popped out the pit of each cherry, one by one. One by one. Exhausting work. Cherry juice, bright red and slippery, up to my elbows.
A day or so later, Natalie brought me a large basket of cherries that she had picked from a friend’s tree. “There were too many for me!” she smiled, as she turned over that gorgeous harvest of cherries to be used for hotel jam.
And then the tree in Raymonde’s garden called to us, offering her bounty. We pulled up chairs and lined up our crates and baskets. Raymonde climbed on top of the old stone wall and snapped off branches one after the other and passed them to us. We pulled off the cherries, thankfully and unexpectedly untouched by birds, and the tossed the empty branches into an ever-growing heap to be carried away at 4 pm. Once our two crates were filled, we said goodbye – I taking one last, longing, jealous glance at the tumble and tangle of raspberries and red currants crowding in her garden, and lugged them home.
An abundance of cherries. This is our third year at the hotel, in Chinon, the third year making jam yet my first year of cherries. Almost no one had cherries last year, no plums, no peaches, few apricots and pears. This year is a year of abundance. I’ve been busily cooking apricots and suddenly I have a windfall, a bounty, a bonanza of cherries. The weather has been so fine.
What do cherries go with? I have plenty with which to experiment, lucky clients.
We’ve been hedgehog hunting at the hotel. We spied a pair of hedgehogs in the bushes, finding little piles of hedgehog poop and crushed garden snails on the terrace early in the mornings. We’ve spied the hedgehogs rustling in the bushes, searching, digging for food, building little leaf hiding places, little hedgehog hunts. And just when a couple of days go by and we fear that they have left us, there we spot them again. And a blackbird, a female, has been hanging around the terrace in the afternoons, picking at the low branches of the magnolia tree and in the dirt, and is looking quite a lot like Birdie. We click click click and she cocks her head, listening, standing quite still, not flying off. Click click click and she listens for a minute or two. Could it be Birdie come back?
But I’ve been distracted. About those cherries! While I’m making jam, you can bake! Find my recipes for
And my newest recipe, a cool, sweet, sophisticated Cherry Prosecco Granità
- 14 ounces (400 grams) fresh cherries, stems removed and pitted
- ⅝ cup (150 ml) Prosecco or any other sparkling wine, rosé or white, or a dry white wine
- 6 tablespoons liquid honey
- ¼ teaspoon lemon extract or 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Rinse the cherries, remove and discard stems and pits. Place the cherries in a food processor or blender and mix to purée.
- Add the Prosecco, the honey, and the lemon extract or lemon juice and blend or whisk well.
- Pour the liquid into a freezer-safe container, a metal pan or a plastic container, preferably with a lid, and place in the freezer. The larger and shallower your pan (8 x 12 x 1 inch/20 x 30 x 2 cm), the quicker the granità will be ready to eat.
- For a shallow pan, stir the granità every 15 minutes or so, using a fork, spatula or metal spoon, until ready to serve. For a deeper container, stir every few hours and then leave in the freezer overnight. Stir it up before serving.