Tuesday, August 2, 2011

show me what your thing is all about

I know I've said this about a lot of things, but ... Montmorency cherries are my favorite fruit.

Montmorency cherries

I don't have a bunch of cherry recipes to lay on you just now - I wanted to get the word out that sour cherries are in season. These are from New York and bought at Trader Joes; I assume Michigan, Indiana, etc have them right now too. Cherry season is finicky and weird and often very short, and sour cherries are not a fruit you can buy year-round like the Bings imported from who knows where. In most of the country you can't buy them at all: they're fragile, slightly soft to the touch, and with practice they can be pitted just be squeezing them and popping the pit out. That means they ship terribly, while Bings are happy to knock around in a truck for a few days.

Montmorency cherries taste like cherry pie. They're juicy and wet and thin-skinned and will damn near fall apart in your mouth. They're sweet, but they're also tart. They're vivid. They're bright.

Online, you'll find fresh Balaton cherries for sale. They are a sour cherry, sure. But they aren't the same as Montmorency cherries (or Northstars, or other varieties found deep in cherry country). The main benefit to a Balaton is that because they're a firmer cherry, you can pack a five pound bag of them and ship it without any real trouble, whereas Montmorencies would arrive as a bag of cherry puree. Montmorencies taste superior, they're tarter, the texture is more sublime, and they have a sort of translucence that the Balaton doesn't have.

I've ordered plenty of Balaton cherries in the past. They're good cherries - and certainly, the difference in quality between a Balaton and a Montmorency is not the same as between a domestic blueberry and a wild blueberry, or between a winter tomato and a summer tomato. But they're a compromise cherry, all the same. They're the pulled pork you make in your oven, your grill, or your smoker because you live outside the triangle and nobody zones real pit BBQ joints where you live. They'll get you through, they're the next best thing, but they're not the same. They're Maddy, not Laura.

Pie, clafoutis, pickled cherries, candied cherries, cherries in liqueur, cherry bounce, cherry preserves, cherries on pizza, cherries with duck, cherries with lamb, cherry brownies, cherry ice cream, cherry sweet corn ice cream, cherries on buttermilk pie, cherries on cornmeal blondies, cherry malted, cherry egg cream, cherry phosphate, Coca-Cola salad, cherry pancakes, there you go, you've got some cherry ideas. GO.

You need to get on this. You need to be eating these cherries.

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