Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sweet things...

whole fresh tart cherriesSummer time, the time I try to go on regular fresh fruit runs (and pick up canned tropical fruit, to supplement) to the grocery store or other market. The payoff--lots of delicious fruit, obtained at good prices, which helped me drop a few pounds. The last is accomplished by simply having lots of fruit at home all the time, so anytime I'm feeling hungry and it's not quite mealtime, I simply pop fruit into my mouth, which keeps me from getting into dietary trouble!

So, I stocked up at Giant with fresh fruit on sale--blueberries, strawberries, and, of course, cherries (I stocked up on peaches a couple of days earlier). Of course, sweet cherries were there in force, on sale for $1.88 a pound, so I got a bit over a pound. But wait, I also saw the beauties above, pints of tart cherries from upstate New York's Orbaker Fruit Farms (part of the Red Tomato network). Whoa! Now, these were not on sale (not at $3.99/pint), there weren't many of them, and I had never tasted fresh tart cherries, so resistance was futile. All fruits have health benefits, and tend to be high in antioxidants (blueberries and cherries in particular), and tart cherries have among the highest antioxidant levels. OK, so I figure I'll make a stovetop cherry slump or grunt in a couple of days for breakfast.

I'll still make that dish, but it might be a smaller one than I originally planned, 'cause it's hard to stop popping these little red orbs directly into my piehole. Frankly, these guys should be renamed as "sweet'n'sour" cherries or "sweettart" cherries, because while not as sweet as their sweeter cousins, they do have a reasonable amount of sweetness to go with the acidity, almost making them more interesting to eat. Addictive, almost. These tart cherries, so-called "pie" cherries because they keep their shape better than sweeter ones. Fair enough. But don't relegate them to pie only if you happen to run across the fresh version of the tart ones at a farmer's market or pick-your-own farm.

Now, the ones that I will cook do present another dilemma--how to pit. After all, I don't have a cherry pitter at home, as I don't cook enough of them to justify one. But, for a small amount like a pint, kitchen utensils already at home were handy enough. For the first step after stemming, cutting the cherries in half, the knife best suited is a small steak knife (or any small serrated knife), like this...
halved tart fresh cherries Notice how pale the tart cherries are inside, which means that there were no stained fingers even after cutting and pitting!

On to pitting. The easiest, quickest way for me (but not for everyone, obviously) was to take my right thumbnail to scoop out the pits. Using a small knife works OK, as I tried pitting with the serrated knife and a smaller knife, but really, a cherry pitter would work best for folks with short nails, because using a knife takes too long.

halved and pitted tart fresh cherriesFor people who want some of the benefits (and plump texture) of tart cherries when they're not in season, you can find canned tart cherries packed in water at the supermarket. So far, Giant rules again, as its brand is the most reasonably priced canned tart cherries I've seen in stores or online.
shelf of tart canned cherries at Giant Food

That's right--it's almost impossible find canned tart cherries for less than $2.50 a can, so this was a revelation, one which made its way straight into the shopping cart!

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Of course, when you think of sweet things, you can't help but also think of this classic from Rufus and Chaka Khan...

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