The cherries needed tending to. All the delicious things that could be created with the bucket fully of cherries; cakes, pies, jam, sorbet, ice cream/gelato to name just a few. Unfortunately, due to having to work and all, I simply didn’t have time to get that creative with them all.
First things first though, they needed pitting. If I were feeling lazy I could have left them unpitted and taught the boys my grandpa’s rhyme of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Sadly I would need my grandpa’s help for that one, as I am the woman with no memory. Besides, there’s something oddly satisfying, and slightly precarious about pitting cherries–at least the way I do it there is.
Last year I laboriously, and rather stupidly, used a knife; as amongst my many kitchen implements a cherry pitter is not a purchase I have ever made. Pah! who needs a cherry pitter? Well I suppose if you’re going to try and keep them beautifully rotund and cherry like you would. But it’s not nearly as satisfying as simply squeezing the pit out. I must admit that for this to really work they need to be properly ripe. I can only imaging a whole heap of disaster to anyone trying to squeeze pits out of those rock hard, uninviting fruit you get imported into blighty.
Prepared, no white top on this morning, but since I never bother with an apron anything I wore would inevitably become a victim. Though dark blue is probably the best choice if your memory regarding appropriate attire for cooking is anything like mine.
Funny how transferring things from one receptacle to another can give the illusion of it increasing or decreasing in quantity. M had squeezed them from the bucket into tuppaware for some reason, so pouring them back into the washing up bowl made it feel like I had masses again. So there they sat, bobbing about in the water, round and fat-fit to burst with their sharp, zingy juice that could make most people pull a fish face. Seemed a shame to touch them almost.
I could say it takes a while to get the nack. But the reality is that succulent cherries are a bit like pregnant women who are ready to give birth: you take a look at them and realise that what you see is not what you expect at all. The fattest, juiciest ones, the ones that you think will give up what is inside easiest, often don’t. They’re too ripe and while the pit comes out pretty clean from the gentle squeeze, the cherry itself is mangled wreck. The pert, tight, ones which fool you into thinking they aren’t as ripe give up their pit fairly easily and keep their shape. Others trick you, while you think you’ve got is sussed and point the fruit upside-down, so the part where the stalk was is facing the bowl, the pit decides to breach and rips out the other end in dramatic fashion.
Stood in the kitchen, patiently squeezing cherries, trying to work out how best to get all the juice in the pans. It’s easy to forget to keep a close eye on the rest of the kitchen. When a cherry decides to breach, or resist giving out it’s pit, it’s surprising just how far that small squirt will go. As bright, and even as fast, as a sudden spurt of arterial blood, it hits walls, cupboards, the floor, and the window doesn’t escape either. Watching it dry is fascinating as it doesn’t deepen in colour, turn brown as blood would, or go burgundy as it oxidises, but stains indigo. A beautiful rich blue purple, when it lands on certain surfaces or you try to wash it out of white clothing. On the window and glass tiles of my kitchen though, it remains as red as blood bursting with oxygen straight from an artery.
One hour later, and having tried to remove as much of the spatter pattern as possible, I’m left with two pans of defeated fruit. I cover and leave the bigger pan to allow the cherries to release more juice, I do love and miss my huge Turkish sauce pans. In the other pan I decide to start the syrup for a sorbet. Remembering I have the ice cream maker is something that makes me happy each time I come here, a massive extravagance given that ice cream is cheap and abundant here in so many flavours but sorbet less so.
Funny how one bucket of cherries can bring such a vibrant array of colours. The syrup bubbles a deep, rich, and silky burgundy. When cooled, and starting to freeze, the sorbet turns to a startling puce pink. No recipe, as ever, and a mild worry that I added too much sugar, but a quick taste reveals there is still enough zing from the sour cherries to make your ‘tabs laugh’ as my mum would say.
Later, the jam, as M brings home a massive bag of sugar. Less of a triumph than the sorbet. Perhaps if I had consulted the Oracle that is Delia, perhaps if I had added half a lemon? more sugar? some pectin powder? Perhaps if I had been less impatient, done it when I had more time and wasn’t itching to take the boys to the pool for the last hour before ifthar? Whatever the reason, it bubbled for an hour. It grew darker and richer. The bubbles grew silkier as they appeared to absorb the pectin filled foam. Still it did not set to the firm, bouncy, jelly consistency loved by jam makers in Blighty. I gave in and filled two rather large jars knowing a firm set was unlikely but hoping it may surprise me. Trying not to burn myself whilst ladling it into jars without suitable equipment that true jam makers have.
I have jam, Turkish style, syrupy, runny jam. I have two huge jars from my bucket full of cherries. I have jam that is sweet yet retains the sour kick of the bitter cherries which is enough to make some pull a fish face.