Every year, my Mamaw would reminisce about when she and Pawpaw had a cherry tree in their yard. In the summers, she would wait day after day for the cherries to be perfectly ripe so she could pick them.
In her stories, she was always impatient for the ruby red droplets like a kid on Christmas Eve. One year, when she noticed the cherries looked ripe for the picking, she called her friend Betty and planned to harvest the perfect fruit the next day to make loads of cherry pies. When Betty arrived the next morning, they went out to the tree, only to discover that every single cherry was gone! As Mamaw told it, only the pits were left dangling from the stems; the birds ate every last cherry on that tree. Alas, there were no cherry pies or cobblers that year.
I heard this story year after year after year. The first cherries of the season always reminded her — which meant she couldn’t help but remind me — that the her lovely cherries were once devoured by birds leaving only stems and pits to adorn the sad tree. I’m not sure why Mawmaw always told this sad story of a cherryless summer. It obviously resonated with her in someway. Maybe seeing bare cherry pits stripped of all their glory was a powerful metaphor for hope that never comes.
Or maybe she just really, really liked cherries.
Whatever the reason, I remember it in the summers when the brief cherry season comes around, and I smile at the silly story that transformed into a sort of a tall tale.
I’ve always loved cherries. Sour cherries, sweet cherries, Luxardo cherries, even fake-y maraschino cherries–I love them all. When I was in grad school, my mom’s care packages sometimes contained big jars of sour cherries in syrup. I would spoon them over yogurt, porridge, and ice cream. When I was a kid my preferred treat drink of choice was a Shirley Temple with extra, extra cherries, please. Even now, Sam always gives me his cherry at the bottom of a Manhattan. My love is deep.
Before moving to England, I knew that certain foods were tied to English food identity and history: strawberries & creams, scones, tea, fish & chips, and real ale. They are as English as apple pie and hot dogs are American.
I was surprised to learn that cherries also fall into this quintessentially British category. Surprised and completely delighted. From what I understand, British cherry production has dwindled over the last few decades, but cherries are making a resurgence. 2015 was the largest cherry harvest in 30 years. I for one am terribly pleased by this news. I’ve probably eaten more cherries this summer than in all my previous summers combined.
Mmm, British cherries.
I know that it’s the very end of summer. The tail end. The grey sky and non-stop drizzly rain and low of 50°F has reminded me of it all day. BUT the final cherries of the season are trickling into the shops, and I can’t quit just yet. Once they’re gone, in a few days or so, I’ll try to move on to apples, pears & citrus. But I’ll dream of next summer’s cherries with all the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve.
Until then, I’m eating them with smooth, barely sweet ricotta cream and an amaretti pistachio crust. I think it’s the perfect final ode to summer. British cherries in all their glory in a lovely cherry tart.
Just hope that the birds don’t get these cherries before you do.
If you like this Cherry Ricotta & Pistachio Tart, you might also like:
Cherry Ricotta & Pistachio Tart
- Tart Shell:
- 3 1/2 ounces amaretti cookies crushed into crumbs
- 3 1/2 ounces graham crackers crushed into crumbs
- 1 ounce crushed pistachios
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 12 ounces fresh cherries pitted & sliced in half
- 1 tablespoon of roughly chopped pistachios
- 1 tablespoon of cherry or apricot jam mixed with one teaspoon water optional
First, preheat your oven to 350*F.
Mix together the amaretti crumbs, graham crumbs, pistachios in a medium bowl. Mix in the melted butter. Press the mixture into an 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. You want to press it very firmly, filling in the sides all the way to the top of the pan. Place the tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
While your tart shell cools, make your filling. In a medium bowl, whip the ricotta until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add in the powdered sugar and whip until combined. Finally, add the heavy cream and whip until soft and fluffy. Spread this mixture into your completely cool tart shell. Pile your cherries into the middle of the tart, leaving about an inch between the cherries and the edge of the tart all the way around.
Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to one day. If you want your cherries to be particularly glossy, before serving you brush the cherries with jam mixed with a little water. Sprinkle chopped pistachios around the edge of the tart.