Texas Living

4 Cherry Recipes Essential for Summer

By Celia Bryan-Brown 6.3.19

There are thousands of varieties of cherries, but only a few native to Texas. Escarpment black cherry woods in the Edwards Plateau bloom white in spring along streambeds into the Rio Grande plains. Chisos black cherries cling to the mountains of West Texas.

Whatever part of Texas you’re in, it’s worth a bet that you’ll be eating cherry pie this summer. Brought here by European settlers in the 1600s, cherries are an ancient fruit, thought to be domesticated before recorded history in the region between the Black and Caspian seas. Since then, it’s become a quintessentially American treat.

Far be it from us to depart from tradition. But if you’re ready to branch out from the typical Fourth of July cherry pie, these four cherry recipes offer ways to use our bounty of cherries in all parts of your meal.

Pro tip: Too early for cherries? Cherries are closely related to plums. Swap in these stone fruits for an early-summer fix.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Cherry Syrup Soda

Kick your soda game up a notch and transform your barbecues and backyard parties with this sticky-sweet drink that kids and adults will love. If you’ve got heaps of cherries, you can scale up this recipe and keep the syrup in the fridge for up to a month.

2 cups cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 split vanilla bean pod
1 tablespoon black tea leaves
¼ cup boiling water
½ a lemon
4 cups soda water

Toss your cherries with the maple syrup and vanilla. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until the cherries are just beginning to caramelize; this will bring out their sweetness. Steep smoky black tea leaves in boiling water for five minutes, then drain and set aside. Combine roasted cherries, tea, and the juice of half a lemon in a blender, then pass through a fine sieve. Dilute your delicious syrup with soda water. This batch of syrup makes enough for four servings.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Black Cherry Clafoutis

Don’t be fooled by the fancy name. It takes the work of 10 minutes to whip up a batter and pour it over fruit to make this classic French cherry pie. Serve this simple, delicious, and impactful dessert hot from the oven with a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar.

½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ pound cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
Powdered sugar, for serving
Whipped cream, for serving

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Whisk in milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla until you have a smooth batter. Grease a cast-iron skillet and scatter cherries to cover the surface in a single layer, then pour over the batter. Bake at 350 F for around 50 minutes, until it’s risen like a cake and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve dusted with powdered sugar and topped with whipped cream.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Tart Cherry Sauce

Cherries, plums, and other stone fruit are fantastic slow-roasted with spices as a sweet-savory accompaniment to meat. Next time you’re flame-grilling tenderloin steaks, whacking pork chops on your barbecue, or roasting duck breasts for a special occasion, this tart cherry sauce will make the meal stand out. You can also use cherry preserves in a pinch.

3 tablespoons butter
1 shallot
1 cup cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
Juices from the meat
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat; when the foam subsides, add your shallot and cook for several minutes, until soft. Add the cherries, vinegar, jelly, and any juices from the meat you are cooking. Bring to a boil to reduce, stirring occasionally until the liquid reduces to a thin syrup, around 5 minutes. Add the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over meat to serve.

Preserved Cherry Blossoms

Add a special touch to lighter salads and fish by trying your hand at this Japanese classic. It’s a delicious way to preserve the sweet aromas of the all-too-fleeting cherry blossom season.

1 pound cherry blossoms
1 cup salt
1 cup plum vinegar

Soak your cherry blossoms in water overnight and let them drip-dry in the morning. Sprinkle with salt and put in a glass jar with water, weighting the top with at least three times the weight of the flowers. Let sit for four days in a cool, dark spot while they leach to form a brine; eventually the flowers will be submerged. Pick out the flowers and squeeze out the brine; you can now discard the liquid.

Put the flowers in a bowl and just submerge with a plum vinegar. Let sit for another three days. Drain and spread the flowers out to dry for a day in a shaded spot. To store, pack them in salt, seal, and refrigerate; they will keep for about a year. To serve, rinse and sprinkle over fish to garnish.

If your sweet tooth is turning sour, learn how to pickle strawberries and watermelon rinds

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