When 18 pounds of beautiful, sweet, organic cherries (yes...18 pounds!) arrived at our doorstep for the July 4th weekend, we were very excited...and a bit speechless. I did manage an audible "thank you" to the delivery guy and then I did some quick math...six people, 18 pounds. That's three pounds per person, over three days. Okay...so we'd each eat a pound of cherries per day and there would be no waste. Could we do that??
As we opened our package and unveiled the seemingly endless bags of beautifully plump Sweet-Dark and Rainier cherries (all from Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, WA), I immediately gained some composure and decided that we'd simply enjoy the fruit...not hard to do. We'd snack on it...again, not hard. I'd give a little sack to the kind neighbors who were taking in our newspapers for us...they love fruits and I'm happy to share (a little anyway). We'd pit, halve, and toss them into our morning fruit salads. I have to say I never think to add cherries to our fruit salads...what a miss. They offer an incredibly delicious pop of tangy-sweet flavor. And, I'd make an easy dessert for the Fourth with whatever I had on hand. I had brought along some jumbo chocolate-walnut brownies (made from scratch) for us to enjoy, so I immediately thought about incorporating those. Who doesn't like chocolate with cherries? With the frozen yogurt I had in the freezer and the jam and whipping cream sitting in the fridge, a layered parfait popped to mind.
We continued munching away at the Sweet-Dark and Rainier cherries after the holiday faded and we had returned to our home base. I even took a big bowl to the home of some friends as a dessert offering (easiest dessert I EVER made).
Phew...15 pounds and counting...
I thought about Swiss meringues with whipped cream and cherry sauce, buttermilk pancakes with chopped walnuts and cherry sauce, and thick, golden waffles...with cherry sauce. And...then I just went with the cherry sauce.
We had just about two cups of cherries remaining and I felt I could improve upon the sauce used in my holiday parfaits. I had used a cherry jam to thicken it and, while good, it just didn't allow the true flavor of these morsels to shine. Looking for a sauce that was a little lighter and brighter, I came up with this. Oh...and we didn't wait for the meringues, pancakes, or waffles to materialize. We simply popped open some frozen vanilla yogurt and spooned this atop. Yum! So simple and so good.
The Sweet-Darks are in markets until well into August...so after you've enjoyed this sauce slathered over some vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, keep a bit aside for those pancakes and waffles.
Simple Fresh Cherry Sauce
makes about 2 cups
2 cups Sweet-Dark cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup water
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons super fine sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Begin by washing, pitting, and halving your cherries. If using a pitter like the one shown here, I find that placing it flush with your prep surface will minimize the mess of splashing juice. Placing some paper towels down on your work surface also helps to minimize the mess...and eases clean up.
Place your prepped cherries in a medium-sized pot, add orange juice through vanilla extract. Heat through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add in cornstarch and continue heating until sauce thickens a bit, about 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Serve sauce warm or cold. Store in fridge.