Growing up, I had mixed feelings about all those fruit trees growing in our yard. On the one hand, I loved the fresh cherries, apricots, peaches, plums and apples that came on in a steady stream throughout the summer and early fall. On the other hand, all of that fruit had to be picked, and we kids had to do our share. Worse yet, the very tart, very juicy Montmorency cherries had to be pitted so we’d spend hours at the kitchen table, our fingers getting more and more wrinkled as we progressed through the bowl. I didn’t think it was worth it then but I sure love it whenever I can get my hands on these hard-to-find cherries today. They make the most wonderful pies and cobblers and they remind me of days gone by. I’m breaking with tradition and posting a recipe I haven’t even tried yet. It’s from Martha Stewart Living and the moment I saw it, it captured my imagination. I’m making it as soon as I can find some deliciously tart pie cherries (and if you know where I can find some, will you let me know?)!
2¼ pounds pitted fresh or thawed frozen sour cherries*
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 cups water
Large pinch of salt
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin, divided
½ cup heavy cream, divided
¼ vanilla bean, scraped, or ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Bring cherries, 1 cup sugar, the water, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat; simmer until liquid is reduced by about half, 12 to 15 minutes. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing very firmly on the solids to release as much juice as possible (you should have 4 cups). Refrigerate until cooled completely, about 1 hour.
Place 1 ½ cups cherry liquid in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle 4 ½ teaspoons gelatin over liquid, and let soften, about 8 minutes. Heat mixture over medium heat until gelatin dissolves completely and mixture is about to simmer, about 4 minutes (do not let boil). Turn off heat and gradually stir in remaining 2 ½ cups cherry liquid; pour cherry –gelatin mixture back into bowl. Place bowl in a larger bowl of ice water, and refrigerate until softly set, about 1 ½ hours, stirring once half-way through with a rubber spatula.
Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons cream, the remaining sugar and the vanilla in a small saucepan. Sprinkle with remaining gelatin, and let soften, about 8 minutes. Heat mixture over medium heat until gelatin dissolves and mixture is about to simmer, about 2 minutes (do not let boil). Whisk in remaining cream until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and place bowl in a larger bowl of ice water. Refrigerate until thickened, about 15 minutes (both mixtures should be approximately the same consistency.)
Whisk cream mixture, and strain through a fine sieve. Spoon cream mixture into a small zip-lock bag and snip a corner off. Whisk gelee until thick but pourable. Divide gelee among 6 bowls and shake to settle. Working with 1 gelee at a time, pipe 6 to 8 cream dots of varying sizes onto top, then draw a wooden skewer through them to create a swirled pattern. Refrigerate gelees until just set, at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
* 7 cups or 3¼ pounds if buying fresh and pitting