Bowled over by cherries

Published on Wednesday, 9 July 2014 00:38 - Written by Christine Gardner

The phrase ‘life is just a bowl of cherries” was intended to mean that life is short and should be enjoyed. It was also a famous song in the 1930’s performed by Ethel Merman and again in the 1960’s by Doris Day. Later, famous columnist Erma Bombeck put her own spin on the phrase with her book, “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I doing in the Pits?”

Her humorist view on life as a mother and housewife captured the emerging role of American women and also cast this famous summer stone fruit in a new light.  It’s one of the most iconic fruits in American history from the tales of George Washington and that infamous cherry tree to its bright red color on the 4th of July.

If life is short, like a bowl of cherries, then the season for cherries is even shorter – especially in the South.

Most of the year, fresh cherries are a luxury and there are only a few weeks – from the end of June to mid-July when they are super sweet and available for an affordable price. Their popularity abounds in northern states where the climate is more suitable for the growth and production of cherry trees.

However, there are some Texas gardeners who have successfully grown cherry trees for their beautiful blossoms and delicious fruit.

This particular taste of summer may be a bit messy and time-consuming, when you factor in removing the pits, but they are definitely worth the effort. Fresh cherries in a salad, drink, sauce or dessert are refreshing, full of nutrients and a beautiful way to enjoy the fruit.

During the rest of the year, frozen cherries are affordable and readily available in the freezer aisle. The frozen cherries are perfect for pies, toppings or pureeing for drinks.



Cherries Jubilee with Old-Fashioned Ice Cream




2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped clean)

pinch of salt



2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 pound fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted, or frozen pitted cherries, thawed, undrained

Pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon bourbon or brandy

Fresh lemon juice

Vanilla ice cream



To make ice cream, in a 2-cup measuring cup add the sugar and one cup of milk. Microwave for one minute and stir until sugar dissolves. Pour into a bowl and add the remaining cup of milk, cream, vanilla and sugar. Chill for one hour. Add to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer directions. To make cherries, Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add cherries and salt; stir to coat. Cook cherries, stirring occasionally, until juices are released and begin to reduce slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in bourbon. Return pan to heat and simmer until juices thicken, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with lemon juice. Let cool slightly. Spoon warm cherry mixture over ice cream.


Chocolate Cherry Brownies



1 box brownie mix

1 cup cherries, pitted and quartered

1/2 cup cherry preserves

1 to 2 dozen whole pitted cherries



Mix brownies according to package directions. Place the cherry preserves in a small bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds and stir to loosen. Add the preserves and the chopped cherries to the brownie mix and pour into a prepared 9 by 13 pan. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow brownies to cool and when sliced top each brownie with a whole cherry. Garnish with powdered sugar.


Cherry-Ricotta Bruschetta



1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey, plus 2 tablespoons

2 cups fresh cherries, quartered and roughly chopped

1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices

Extra virgin olive oil

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon sugar

Lemon zest



In a saucepan combine the vinegar, 1/4 cup honey and chopped cherries. Bring to a boil and let reduce until mixture reaches a syrup consistency. Strain off any excess liquid. Brush both sides of bread slices with olive oil. Put the bread on a grill pan or baking sheet, and cook until golden and toasted. Stir together the ricotta and the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey. Add a pinch of salt. Spread ricotta over bread slices and top with cherries. Sprinkle with lemon zest and a drizzle of honey. Serve immediately.


Mixed Green Cherry Salad with Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette



2 cups fresh baby spinach

2 cups mixed spring greens

1 cup cherries, pitted and halved

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 radishes, sliced paper thin

1 cup walnuts, toasted

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 teaspoon Dijon mustard



Chop 1/4 cup of the cherries into fine pieces and place in a jar with the balsamic vinegar. Let soak overnight in the refrigerator. In a large serving bowl combine the spinach, mixed greens, 3/4 cup cherries, blue cheese, radishes and walnuts. Take the vinegar out of the refrigerator. Add the olive oil, black pepper, salt and mustard. Shake the jar until combined. Serve the vinaigrette with the salad. This salad pairs very well with grilled meats.


Cherry Blossom Martini



8 whole cherries, stemmed & pitted (more for garnish)

1 teaspoon granulated or raw sugar

2 ounces vodka

1 ounces cherry brandy

1 ounces triple sec

1/2 small lemon, juiced

2 teaspoons vanilla

club soda



In a martini shaker, place cherries and sugar. Vigorously mash with a muddler. Add the vodka, brandy, triple sec, lemon juice and vanilla. Fill the shaker with several ice cubes. Shake until shaker is cold and frosty. Strain into martini glasses and serve. Top with a splash or two of club soda. Makes 2 large or 4 small martinis.