After the earlier rains rotted all the sweet dark cherries, I turned my attention to the other cherry trees in the garden. They held a smaller, very red cherry. The French call these cerise originel, the Yanks sour cherry and we often refer to them as the morello cherry.
These little beauties, though originally very tart became quite, quite sweet as the blistering hot sunshine ripened them throughout June. Scoffing them directly from the tree and having a bowl-full with breakfast became the norm. Eventually as they began to ebb, I picked a big bunch washed them and placed them directly into kiln jars, with a handful of sugar and topping up with vodka. Having given the bottle a good shake, I placed them into a dark cupboard where I’ll leave them for a good six-months and then resurrect them for a shot of intense sweet summer sunshine in the depths of winter.
As the cherry season began to end, I panicked, it was jam-making time. I needed to capture all those sweet, juicy berries and keep them safe for friends and for winter time when these summer treats are but a distant memory. I stoned about 4lbs of them, only to find later that the tiny amount of pectin the cherry has is mostly contained within the stone….no matter; the colour – an extreme burst of wondrous cerise – the taste so sweet and addictive, more than made up for the consistency. I left the cherries whole and they looked entirely beautiful suspended aloft in their deep pink home.
Stored in the fridge the jam sets well and served in a small bowl at breakfast it is a welcome addition to hot croissants or fresh bread.
I’ll stick the Sour Cherry Vodka in the freezer at New Year and to cheer us in darkest January will be ice cold shots of cerise vodka…divine!
June has been awash, literally, with lashings of rain, buckets of sunshine then lashings of rain. The guests have poured south and it has been back-to-back entertaining.
The washing line has groaned under its weight of duvet covers, sheets, towels and pants. Every night for nigh on a month we have dined like rich, gluttonous lords. The wine has been swimming, the cheeses oozing, the salads crisp, the meat roasted and juicy, the melons fat and swollen and the gout ready to make an appearance.
Despite the sweat and hard work involved in having fun 24-7, several bottles of sweet refreshing elderflower have been made, and consumed.
The cherry crop – appearing to be so fat and sweet – was all but lost to the constant rain. However, several Clafoutis’ made their appearance at the supper table and were duly lapped up.
Fortunately the sour cherry crop is fabulous, though nearing its time now, their sour sweet almost over-ripe taste is divine. The sour cherry jam produced is a thing of beauty, its crimson jelly sweet and dripping off the finger the fat cherries sitting on top glistening like sweet red lips. Several kiln jars of sour cherry vodka have been rustled up in anticipation of autumn and a glassful of sweet lingering summer memories.
The blooms have been abundant this May, and as the blossom has blown off the trees so has the small buds of fruit taken their place. Cherries, sweet and sour, adorn the branches, small green bumps begin the pears and fat, bright green stumps creep down the branches of the fig.
The season of bounty is almost upon as June enters the fray, the strawberries slowly taken on a shade of pink easing to red and the melons are beginning to be seen at the markets. The poppies, the wild lillies, cornflowers and clover slowly begin to ebb away as summer gently takes her turn and starts to heat the landscape up.
The crickets have been chirruping for some weeks now and the frogs will not keep their peace, the Hoopoe and his mate have been seen in the fields and hiding in the hedges. The wheat fields are rising around us like soldiers and the maze is making its story well known.
Dining in the heat of the evening is almost becoming de rigueur as the guests flow constantly south in a bid to eat a slice of French heaven. Cherry jam, cherry liquer and elderflower cordial are all being sketched out to make the most of this local abundance and to capture the essence of our sweet French summer.