Sour Cherries & Summertime!

Sour Cherries & Summertime!  

 Cherries 101…

Sweet cherries are commonly eaten out of hand as fresh cherries, while sour or tart cherries are used primarily for cooking and baking. Sweet cherries simply do not hold up when cooking and loose much of their flavor. Sour cherries on the other hand, stay plump and juicy while cooking or baking. Some eat sour cherries out of hand (as do I), but they are also very good pitted, with a sprinkle of crusty brown sugar and a dollop of honey-sweetened sour cream or whipped cream on top.

The garnet jewels of summertime…

Fresh Sour Cherries courtesy of Scholl Orchards in eastern Pennsylvania

Fresh Sour Cherries courtesy of Scholl Orchards in eastern Pennsylvania

Sour cherries arrive about the end of June or the first few weeks of July—right after sweet cherries have come into season. Sour cherries should be plump, soft and juicy.  Keep them in the refrigerator, uncovered, and use them as soon as possible—they will keep about 3 days or so. Note that sour cherries do freeze well: just stem, pit (one pound cherries will yield 2 cups, pitted), then simply freeze in small containers.  Or place in freezer containers, sprinkle lightly with sugar as you go; let stand a few minutes giving time for the sugar to dissolve and produce a syrup; stir, then cover, and freeze.

The following is a favorite recipe of mine: plump juicy duck breast with a tangy sour cherry sauce—which is also wonderful served over pork chops, chicken wings or even grilled summer vegetables.

Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – All Rights Reserved

To see preparation photos, just click the link below.  The recipe can also be printed out and filed.


Pan-Grilled Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce

Meaty duck breast is a real treat and while many like it medium rare, I prefer my duck cooked to medium-doneness.  The recipe here calls for (2) 8-ounce duck breasts which will serve 2-3 people.  Absolutely no oil is needed; the skin will render enough fat to do the job. The sauce is a simple one made with seasonal sour cherries and be sure any extra is served warm on the side. Note that gooseberries, also in season in July, can be substituted for the sour cherries.  Delicious!

(2) 8-ounce duck breasts with skin
1 teaspoon each:  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, diced
½-cup chicken or duck stock
½-cup pitted sour cherries with juices
1½-tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon corn starch
Fresh parsley to garnish

  1. Score the skin of the duck breasts in a diagonal, or criss-cross pattern and sprinkle both sides with salt and black pepper

2. Put the duck breasts, skin-side down in a cold cast iron or heavy frying pan. Cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes (depending on the degree of doneness you prefer), then flip and cook the meat side for another 3 minutes. Remove the duck breasts from the pan and let rest on a cutting board while you make the sauce

3. Using the same skillet, turn the heat up to medium and remove all but a teaspoon of duck fat (saving any extra duck fat), and add the shallots; sauté for 2 minutes, or just until the shallots are nicely browned; add the sour cherries and chicken stock, and stir in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar; cook another 2 minutes, and then turn up the heat to medium-high.

4. Make a slurry by mixing a few tablespoons of cold water with the corn starch, and pour it into the sour cherry mixture to thicken it, stirring constantly. This will take about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat.

5. Slice the duck breast and put on a warm serving platter with sour cherry sauce drizzled over top. Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve immediately.

COOKING NOTE:  It will be easier to slice the cooked duck breast skin-side-down!

You will need for 2-3 servings:

Duck breasts with skin
Chicken or duck stock
Dark brown sugar
Balsamic vinegar
Corn starch
Fresh parsley to garnish

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