Sour cherries are around for about three weeks. Their season is short and they are rather inconvenient to work with, but my-oh-my are they delicious. One of my signature summer desserts is cherry upside down cake.
I considered making it this week when I found a quart of sour cherries at the farmers market, but the husband is on another no-carb kick, the daughter is in training for crew and the son is away for the summer. My editor valiantly offered to take the cake off my hands for me, but I decided to use the cherries to make compote.
This compote has a depth of fruit flavor that I have not found in the purchased versions. It is delightful with cheese, drizzled atop vanilla ice cream, slathered over pound cake, whizzed into fresh lemonade, even eaten with a spoon out of the bowl. Or make a whole lot more (like, quadruple the recipe) and use it to fill a tart or pie.
My biggest complaint about cooking with sour cherries is the laborious pitting process, but this recipe gives a bit of a work around. I put the cherries in a saucepan with sugar and water, cooked them down — and occasionally crushed them with a potato masher. This went a long way toward separating the pit from the flesh and, although it still required some work, was a bit of a short cut.
Makes about ⅔ cup
1½ cups sour cherries, rinsed
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
In a small saucepan, bring the cherries, water and sugar to a boil.
Using a potato masher, crush the cherries while they cook. Repeat this step several times during the cooking process.
After about eight minutes, the cherries will be semi-disintegrated and the water will have reduced into a syrup. At this point, remove them from the heat.
Pour the compote through a sieve and press on the solids with the back of a spoon to allow as much liquid as possible to extract from the solids.
When the remaining solids are cool enough to handle, manually remove the pits.
Scrape the de-pitted solids into the syrup, mix and use as desired.