There’s nothing quite so special as a beautiful bowl of summer-ripe cherries. Cherries are in a league of their own when it comes to fruit. We associate them with all the grandest of desserts, like Cherries Jubilee or Cherry Cheesecake. Cherries adorn our favourite treats, like an ice cream sundae or Black Forest cake, and can be made into the most exotic drinks, like cherry brandy and Kirsch, the famous liqueur made from distilling cherries.
Cherry trees are grown on every continent around the world, although originally native to Asia. In Canada, most of our cherries come from British Columbia and Ontario. In the spring, the blossoms, white to light pink, cover trees in our Niagara region. At the end of June and into early July, cherries are ripe and ready to pick.
Sweet or Sour!
There are two main types of cherries (sweet and sour) and dozens of varieties within these categories.
Sweet: Most of us think of sweet cherries as plump dark red (almost black) cherries that we buy at the grocery store – and then we eat before we get home! These are Bing cherries, one of the most popular choices. You’ll also find Bing cherries canned but don’t expect the flavour to be the same as fresh! Other sweet varieties are Rainier and Queen Anne.
Sweet cherries can be used in cooking and made into jam, but they are best enjoyed as is – washed, and with no sugar. They make a great dessert choice!
- 1 cup (250 mL) contains 81 calories, and is a source of Vitamin C and potassium.
Sour/Tart: Don’t let the name fool you, sour cherries are cherry royalty! There is nothing better than cherry pie, cobbler, muffins, jam or compote made out of any sour cherry variety. Their tartness, complemented by sugar, provides a true cherry taste.
Ontario’s red tart cherries are the world-renowned Montmorency variety. Even in the United States, fruit stands will identify “Ontario grown” as a choice for selecting cherries.
Sour cherries can be eaten “as is”, especially if they are perfectly ripe. Both sweet and sour cherries have pits, which are always removed before cooking or preserving.
Maraschino Cherries: We’re all familiar with the bright red maraschino cherries sold in bottles and used as a decoration for desserts or drinks. Don’t be fooled. As beautiful as they seem, maraschino cherries are almost “not cherries”. In order to preserve them, they’ve been bleached, coloured, and then soaked in liquid with added preservatives and flavours.
Soak bamboo skewers in water to prevent burning during cooking.
- 2 cups (475 mL) Frozen Sweet or Tart Cherries
- 2 cups (475 mL) Pineapple Chunks
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) Honey
- 1/2 tsp (5 mL) or to taste Curry Powder
- Partially thaw cherries, thread them alternately with pineapple on bamboo skewers.
- In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, honey and curry powder; mix well.
- Place kebabs on broiler pan; broil 4 to 6 inches from heat, or grill over medium coals.
- Brush with vinegar mixture.
- Cook 4 to 5 minutes, turning and basting with additional sauce after each turn.