Today saw the arrival of a large box of plump, juicy local cherries – recently picked and delivered directly from the Blackmore Estate just down the A3. A good cherry is deeply satisfying – thirst quenching and delicious. The Blackmore estate has a number of different varieties available throughout the short cherry season, but this week we have the Hertford variety which “usually wins prizes for the best cherry; excellent flavour; firm”. After tasting some, I have to agree with that verdict.
The cherry orchards of England are now down to a total area of 300 hectares, from 3000 hectares in the 1950’s. With a global supply of cheap imports available in the supermarkets, as well as the large traditional trees making picking on massive ladders a health and safety no no, the decline was abrupt. However, with new root stock introduced ensuring that the trees kept below a certain height, as well as people taking an interest in their local food, let’s hope we can bring about a local cherry revival. While the area dedicated to cherries is only slowly growing, the volume of fruit being produced is increasing rapidly because of much larger yields. Back in 2000, just 400 tonnes of British cherries were produced, now it is over 3,500 tonnnes.
Aside from being absolutely delicious, they are also rather good for you. A handful before bed will help you sleep due to their melatonin content, and they are also great for gout and arthritis due to their anti-inflamatory properties.
While best eaten as soon as you can get your hands on some, cherries make a fine ingredient in cakes and puddings. I was particularly interested in this recipe…
BRAISED CHERRIES with SPICED TOASTS
500g stoned cherries
2 tbsp demerara sugar
1 tbsp kirsch
10 slices baguette
50g demerara sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cornflour
Place cherries, sugar and kirsch into a pan and bring to the boil. Then simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile in a frying pan, heat the butter and fry your sliced baguette on each side until golden. Then remove and dust with sugar and cinnamon and place at the bottom of a serving dish. When the cherries are soft, remove from the juice and place onto the toast. Blend the cornflour with a little water and then mix into the warm cherry juice. Gently bring to the boil, before pouring over the bread and cherries. Serve.