What IS this?
A. A lifesaver
B. A toy
C. The latest gadget to find a home in my kitchen
D. All of the above
Yes, D is correct! I would like to meet the prodigious engineering talent who invented the cherry pitter. Since I bought mine last Thursday, life has just been a bowl of cherries. This is an idiom in English meaning that life is wonderful.
The origin of the idiom is “Life is just a Bowl of Cherries,” an American popular song written in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression by Ray Henderson and Lew Brown. The song stresses the mystery and impermanence of the sweet things in life and how the appropriate reaction is to laugh and not to take things too seriously.
Yes, cherry season is impermanent, so I do my best to enjoy it when it’s here. This year I’ve made a variety of desserts as well as several versions of cherry soup, one of which I share below. And I have laughed quite a lot at the mess I have created while using my new toy! My supply of cherries has come from the markets in Ljubljana (see the picture below) and Graz. However, cherries probably originated a bit east of here, specifically between the Caspian and Black Seas. They later spread to the temperate zones of Europe, Asia, and North America, where winters are cold enough to provide the 1000 “chill hours” necessary for the cherry tree to blossom in spring.
In Europe, the two most common species of edible cherries are sweet cherries and sour cherries. Sweet cherry trees (Prunus avium) are reliant on bees for pollination. They grow 15-30 meters high and are sensitive to the cold. Birds flock to them to feast on their fruit. Sour cherry trees (Prunus cerasus) are more autonomous, smaller and tougher. Growing to a height of 4-10 meters, they are more tolerant of frost and are self-fertilizing. The fruit they yield is smaller, softer, and more acidic than that of sweet cherry trees.
Sweet and sour cherry trees belong to the same genus (Prunus) as almond, apricot, peach, and plum trees. The fruit of all of them are referred to as drupes, which is a delightful word derived from the Greek word for olive (also a drupe!). I am a fool for drupes, and I fancy drupe soups.
Graz-style Cseresznyeleves, or Drupe Soup 1
Sometimes we experience something so wonderful that we feel compelled to repeat the activity so we can recreate that feeling. This is an endeavor doomed to failure because such intense experiences arise out of a constellation of events that will never occur again in that particular permutation. These experiences often have an unbelievable staying power and continue to haunt us years later. I remember having a slice of a raspberry tart topped with whipped cream at a cafe on a beautiful summer day. I was eight or nine years old and it was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
Last summer I went to Budapest. My first evening there I discovered a cafe that was perfectly situated on a quiet, shady square in the center of Pest. I tasted cherry soup for the first time. It was so good that I returned to the cafe two more times during my visit. This recipe is my futile attempt to recreate this soup. What resulted is naturally different, but still tasty, therefore I have christened it Graz-style Cseresznyeleves (Hungarian for sweet cherry soup, pronunciation: che-RESH-nee-uh le-VESH).
1.5 L (6 cups) water
50 g (¼ cup) sugar
½ kilo (1 lb.) pitted sweet cherries
½ tsp cinnamon
200 g (1 cup) sour cream
3 Tbs flour
¼ ts salt
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Add the cherries and cinnamon and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
While the cherries are cooking, mix the sour cream, flour, and salt together in a small bowl.
When the cherries are cooked, add one ladle of the cooking liquid to the sour cream mixture and stir well. Remove the cherries from heat. Let cool enough to puree, then blend as much as you like (or not at all).
Add the sour cream mixture to the cherries and stir to thicken.
Cool entirely before serving.
Köszönöm to Benjamín for the help with the Hungarian!