I purchased some cherries at the store the other day. I meant to pickle them, actually; I'd had this recipe for pickled cherries since September that I wanted to try, but (alas!) I'd missed the last of our local cherries for the year. Every week I checked ... every week, nothing.
Until January. When the cherries are in season in Argentina.
Does it feel a little wrong to be eating so out of season? Yeah. But it's also incredibly luxurious, isn't it?
And don't you know it, once I had those cherries, I couldn't find my recipe - or a cherry pitting tool, anywhere! - to save my life. Couldn't let those little pretties go to waste, though. So I cooked them with a bit of water and a couple of old vanilla beans until they'd started to break down. I ran the mix through my food mill (bad idea: the pits would pop out, covered in juice, and basically became little clothes-staining missiles) and then put it through a strainer. I cooked the mash and juice down with some lemon juice and a bit of sugar (not too much!) and a HUGE overdose of pectin to make a fruit paste like a membrillo (though I only had about 2 or 3 cups of fruit/juice mix, I used an entire packet of Pomona's Universal Pectin - just the pectin, not the activating agent). Membrillo, a Spanish quince paste, achieves its thick, jello-like consistency from the high pectin content in quince; you just keep cooking those suckers until they are paste! So, same idea here - I just had to introduce the pectin into the equation.
I sealed it in jars and processed them. I love that it can be popped out of the jar entire, or cut into little cubes that hold their shape. It's not so good for spreading, though. I plan to pair this with blue cheese and crackers for nibbles to pair with cocktails before dinner parties, but I'll probably have to actually cut the stuff into tiny squares beforehand. That's okay, though; I think it's kind of fun!
And since it softens up when it's warmed, I might actually surprise Cass one morning by baking it into layers of filo or puff pastry as a kind of strudel. Cherry flavour is his FAVORITE, and with the inclusion of the vanilla bean, this came out tasting rather like a cherry strudel filling.