Sour cherries are the best; they may even be a sleep aid

Sour cherries can be found at most U-pick orchards and are worth the time spent to put some away in the freezer. | Sarah Galvin photo

Sour cherries make the best pies. They are a tarter cousin of the British Columbia cherry and they hold up well in recipes calling for a cherry sauce. They have a pleasantly sweet and intense flavour.

The breeding of dwarf sour cherries began at the University of Saskatchewan in the 1940s by Les Kerr.

Since then, breeding has combined cold hardiness suitable for Zone 2, dwarf stature and good fruit quality into the final product. The cherry releases by the University of Saskatchewan are a great tasting cherry with high sugar content.

In 1999, the carmine jewel variety was released. It is the first cherry of the season to ripen and one of my favourites. I use it to make marinated cocktail cherries.

In 2004, the aptly named romance series of cherries was released. The romeo, juliet, valentine, crimson passion and cupid are all part of the romance series.

Sour cherries can be found at most U-pick orchards and are worth the investment of time to put some away in the freezer.

Sour cherries are high in vitamins A and C and minerals manganese and potassium and high in antioxidants. They are naturally high in melatonin so they could help you sleep better.

Hungarian cherry cake

  • 2 lb. pitted fresh sour cherries or frozen and thawed 1 kg
  • 1/4 c. flour, plus more for pan 60 mL
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, plus more for pan 250 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar 375 mL
  • 3 tbsp. kirsch or brandy 45 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour 560 mL
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder 15 mL
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 c. milk 250 mL

Heat oven to 400 F (200 C). Toss cherries with 1/4 cup flour (60 mL) in a bowl. Set aside.

Grease a 13 x 18 inch (33 x 45 cm) baking sheet with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, kirsch and vanilla with a hand mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add egg and beat until incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, alternately add flour mixture and milk in three batches to make a batter.

Spoon batter onto baking sheet and smooth evenly. Sprinkle cherries over the top.

Bake until the cake is golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let cake cool 30 minutes, then cut into 12 squares.

Sour cherry salsa

  • 2 1/4 c. fresh or frozen pitted sour cherries 560 mL
  • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped red onion 45 mL
  • 1 large fresh jalapeno chili, finely chopped, including seeds
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice30 mL
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro 60 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2.5 mL

If using fresh cherries, coarsely chop, then stir together with sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved, about five minutes. If using frozen cherries, thaw in a small bowl, reserving any juices in bowl, then coarsely chop and stir together with sugar in same bowl.

Stir in onion, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro and salt and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes for flavours to develop.

Goes well with goat cheese and crackers. Makes about two cups (500 mL).

Sour cherry jam

  • 4 c. chopped cherries 1 L
  • 1 pkg. Bernardin Original Fruit Pectin
  • 5 c. granulated sugar 1.25 L

Place six clean 250 ml (8 oz.) mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer.

Set screw bands aside. Heat snap lid sealing discs in hot water, not boiling. Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.

Wash, stem, pit and finely chop cherries. Measure four cups (1 L).

Measure sugar and set aside.

In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, stir together prepared cherries, 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) butter to reduce foaming, and pectin.

Over high heat, bring mixture to a rolling boil. Add all of the sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam, if necessary.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars to within 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) of top of jar. Using a non-metallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more jam.

Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining jam. Makes about six 250 mL jars.

Sour cherry vinaigrette

  • 1/2 c. canola oil 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. sour cherry jam 60 mL
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar 10 mL
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped chives 10 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. Dijon mustard .5 mL
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Chill and serve on your favourite greens.

Chipotle-cherry barbecue sauce

  • 1 c. ketchup 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. sour cherry jam 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. mild-flavored molasses 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. golden brown sugar 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel 5 mL
  • 1 to 2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo, minced, plus
  • 1 tbsp. adobo sauce from can 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. onion powder 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder 5 mL

Bring ketchup, cherry preserves, lemon juice, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, lemon peel, chilies, adobo sauce, onion powder and cocoa powder to simmer in medium saucepan, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often.

Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about two cups (500 mL).

Sour cherry sorbet

  • 1 lb. pitted fresh or frozen tart red cherries 500 g
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. water 125 mL

If using fresh cherries, spread onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze, uncovered, six hours or overnight.

To make the syrup, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, whisking to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat; let cool slightly, then chill one to two hours or until completely cool.

Combine cold syrup and frozen cherries in a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Process three to five minutes or until mixture is smooth, scraping down sides of bowl after each minute.

Transfer sorbet to a freezer-safe container. Freeze at least four hours. Serves six.

Cherry coke float

Place a scoop of cherry sorbet in a cup. Top with chilled Coca-Cola and serve.

Cherry rosé float

Place a scoop of cherry sorbet in a champagne flute. Top with chilled sparkling rosé wine.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at Contact:

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