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I promised

It hit 85 degrees in Seattle today, and here in our city of no air conditioning, that counts as a heat wave. I know: talking about the weather is boring, blah blah blah, but on a cloudless day in mid-July, the best one can hope for, I think, is to have nothing but the weather to talk about.

I come this evening, however, to talk about sour cherry milkshakes. I promised.

Most of us know sour cherries in their cooked form, as the kind of cherry that you bake into a pie. I didn’t know them at all until five summers ago, the summer of 2009, when we were about to open Delancey and I had no idea how to run a station in a professional kitchen, so our friend Renee invited me to hang out one evening at Boat Street Cafe and watch the way her kitchen worked. Renee has a sour cherry tree - Montmorency, I think - in her yard, and that afternoon, she had brought a brown paper grocery bag full of cherries. She probably sensed that I felt awkward just standing in the corner, that I would feel better being useful, so she put me to work pitting them. They were bright red, nearly translucent, and they felt like marble-sized water balloons, soft and full of juice. I could ease out the pit with my fingers, Renee showed me, by pulling on the stem with one hand and gently squeezing the cherry with the other, so that the pit slid out with the stem. While she and her cooks finished prepping for the evening, I pitted the bag of cherries, and while my hands were busy with that, I watched everyone bustle around. Later in the evening, Renee cooked the cherries into a quick jam, I think. To serve with pound cake, maybe? I can’t remember. But I do remember that that was the first I knew of sour cherries. (For that and many other things: THANK YOU, RENEE! Sorry I was grumpy and in Antisocial Work Mode when we ran into you at Barnacle the other day.)

Of course, all this said, we’ve now reached the part of the post where I have to admit that I don’t actually like the usual vehicle for sour cherry consumption, by which I mean cherry pie. I don’t like cooked cherries in general. I am not a real American. On the upside, I’ve discovered that I love raw sour cherries, particularly when they’re whizzed into a shake.

My friend (and Spilled Milk co-host) Matthew taught me about this recipe, which, like a lot of my favorite things to eat, is so simple that it hardly counts as a recipe. You take raw sour cherries and toss them into a blender, zizz them until they liquefy - I thought about typing “are pureed,” but really, they do liquefy; they’re that juicy - and then scoop in some vanilla ice cream and blend some more. That’s it. The result is thick and pale pink, flecked with pretty bits of red cherry skin.  When you take a sip, what registers first is the acidity of the fruit, a kind of light, almost sparkly cherry flavor, and then comes the sweetness, but not too-sweetness, of the ice cream. It was June’s first shake, and I decided not to tell her that it’s all downhill from here.

Sour Cherry Shake
From Hungry Monkey, by Matthew Amster-Burton

The season for sour cherries is short, and they can be hard to find. But keep an eye out: they’re small, bright red, and often labeled as Montmorency cherries. (Or, if they’re dark red, they’re probably the other main sour variety, morello.) You can pit them with a cherry pitter, or you can do it by hand: just pull gently on the stem with one hand while you gently squeeze the cherry with the other. Usually the pit will slip right out with the stem. Usually. (And if not, they’re still easy to pit by hand, tearing them open and pulling out the pit with your fingers. Be sure to do it over a bowl, so as not to lose any juice.) If you can’t get fresh sour cherries, Matthew says that jarred or canned sour cherries (note: not pie filling!) make a good substitute, and that the jarred morello cherries from Trader Joe’s are his favorite.

Oh, and don’t feel as though you have to have two full pounds of cherries on hand to make this recipe! Sour cherries are expensive! I get it. I only had about 12 ounces last weekend, myself, so I just scaled back accordingly, using about one and a half cups of ice cream. We wound up with three small shakes, perfect for an afternoon snack.

2 pounds (900 grams) fresh sour cherries, stemmed and pitted, or 24 ounces canned or jarred cherries, drained
1 quart vanilla ice cream

Put the cherries in a blender or food processor, and blend to a smooth puree. Add the ice cream, and continue to blend until the mixture is smooth and pale pink. Pour into four glasses, and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 (12-ounce) shakes


Anonymous Ross said...

The European deli in the strip mall at 135th & Aurora sells a very good sour cherry syrup. Pick up a bottle to supplement your very dear and expensive sour cherries.

12:26 AM, July 12, 2014  
OpenID lisaathome.com said...

this looks perfect! no idea where i'll find sour cherries but i'm determined!

5:22 AM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger Isabelle Hulm said...

Looks delicious and particularly suitable in warm weather. I'll certainly be making this one.

7:41 AM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger Isabelle Hulm said...

This looks delicious and particularly refreshing when it's hot.

7:42 AM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger June Baby said...

That sounds awesome! Sour cherries are just so tasty, I'll have to try this. :)

8:15 AM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger Kate Ramos said...

As always it is such a joy to read your posts. You are hands down the best food describer I know. They shake looks tasty too.

8:24 AM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous Sara said...

I like sour cherries raw too. Can't wait to try this.

9:43 AM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous 10 Legs in the Kitchen said...

My Grandparents make a fresh strawberry shake at their restaurant in Alaska. As a kid and then later as a worker in the restaurant, I always looked forward to my daily "mini" fresh strawberry shake. I can't think of anything better than a mix of liquified fruit, dreamily whizzed into creamy vanilla ice cream on a hot summer day. Well, except perhaps a gin and tonic. It's a toss up. Lovely post.

9:58 AM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous Marissa said...

Well now you've done it! Now I have to get permission from our local butcher to pick the sour cherries from the tree in front of his shop. It's loaded, ripe, and no one is picking them. You've given me the courage. :)

p.s. I want to be sure that you saw the post from Michael Ruhlman yesterday http://ruhlman.com/2014/07/friday-cocktail-hour-the-benjamin/ - my favorite bit from it:

"Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life and the blog Orangette, is a felicitous writer, and her latest is a lovely memoir about love and food and the crazy decisions we make based on nothing reliable and the risks we take, and the really, really hard work of running a restaurant, even a casual pizzeria."

10:04 AM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger Marisa Franca said...

Would the pitting technique work with regular cherries. They've been on sale at our store and I love simply eating them. I'd love to freeze them like I freeze blueberries and strawberries. Your shake sound delicious.

10:56 AM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous Lindsey said...

Hello, readers! Please post any and all sources of sour cherries. I grew up on the east coast and they were a big part of summer fun. We had a tree in our yard and my mom froze quarts and quarts of them every summer and we had fabulous pies all winter. I've seen them only once since I moved to Seattle in '96. Can't believe they are not grown all over our lovely region! I heard that if you go to a farmers' market or roadside stand to ask the farmer if they have any. Apparently many cherry growers have a sour cherry tree or two for their own use and will sell you some if you ask. I'm going to try at the Shoreline farmers' market today.

11:39 AM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous Ashley @ QLCC said...

I've never had sour cherries, but I do remember a family friend had a tree in her yard. This looks yummy!

12:05 PM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger Rhett said...

Thank so much for this post! We have a sour cherry tree in our yard in Missoula and I never pick them because I really don't like cooked cherries either. Guess I'm not very American! I'm going to get some vanilla ice cream ASAP.

1:39 PM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous Leah said...

I also don't like cherry pie. Good idea to balance the tartness with the sweetness of ice cream. Despite my general aversion to sour things, I think I *might* just like this!

1:44 PM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger Kim Bear said...

After reading this, I want to plant the trees!

4:28 PM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger mmiatrifas said...

I am originally from Romania, and when our family flew back to visit, we stayed for a couple of weeks in the rural countryside with my dad's side of the family. One of my most vivid memories is of climbing trees to get tart cherries. In the states, I haven't been able to find the sour cherries, but will be on the lookout! Thanks for the recipe!

5:27 PM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous Sharyn Dimmick said...

I like all things made with sour cherries -- I'll be sure to try this shake.

5:29 PM, July 12, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are sour cherries and pie cherries the same thing? And if so would Remlinger farm frozen pie cherries work? Would they be better thawed first?

8:08 PM, July 12, 2014  
Blogger Christy Woolum said...

I live at the other corner of our state of Washington where we are up to 100 degrees today. The good news is the sour cherries are ripe at the orchard up the road. Thanks for the inspiration. A much cooler treat than pie!

1:12 PM, July 13, 2014  
Blogger Emily said...

Those cherries are so pretty. I am in DC this weekend. 95 and humid. Milkshakes are my life.

2:26 PM, July 13, 2014  
Anonymous Rachel said...

The easiest way to pit sour cherries it with a small bobby pin. Sounds crazy, but it works. Insert the round end into the place where the stem was and pull out the pit. This doesn't work as well with sweet cherries as they are firmer than the sour.
My mom taught me this tip. My mother was born on a hot July night, after her Amish mother had spent all day picking, pitting and canning sour cherries.

3:05 PM, July 13, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last summer my mom was bewailing the lack of what she called 'pie cherries' in the stores, so I looked them up online. Remlinger Farms up near Carnation in WA has them, and sells them frozen through QFC. I imagine they would work for this recipe, no?

6:55 PM, July 13, 2014  
Anonymous Rachel @ Tasty Thailand said...

Your photos are absolutely stunning. Particularly love your header - so beautiful.

And yes, there's nothing like sour cherries. We get them in ice creams here in Bangkok and they're amazing, as the Thais make some of the best ice cream in the world I think.

7:52 PM, July 13, 2014  
Anonymous Susanne said...

here in Sweden we have so much sour cherries I will definitly try it this week!

10:09 PM, July 13, 2014  
Blogger Cara said...

We have a sour cherry tree in our backyard, with tons of bright red cherries, and I've never known what to do with them! I might try this... but wish I could share them with people that really want them also! I'm just north of Seattle, too!

12:19 PM, July 14, 2014  
Blogger Bonnie Stremming said...

I just finished your book..."A Homemade Life." As I type, in a temperature controlled holding pattern, is the chocolate banana bread with crystalized ginger. Last night we sampled creamed cabbage....my husband was speechless. Your chapters have truly changed my thoughts and actions about recipes and the ingredients that go into them to make yummy memories. Immediately adding you to my favorites!!!

2:29 PM, July 14, 2014  
Blogger Karen said...

Cherry Bounce - a lovely, sweet, after dinner sip. My ex FIL used to make it with vodka - he made huge amounts of this stuff for the family and in the 40 years I've known him I've never seen him take so much as a sip of alcohol. He makes a mean andouille. I always envious of people with their own "trees". I need more trees.

6:48 PM, July 14, 2014  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I have wanted to try sour cherries for so long, but they don't seem to make it to Alabama. Unless I blinked and missed them...

2:50 PM, July 15, 2014  
Blogger shahnnen said...

I love the morello cherries from trader joes [i eat them straight out of the jar!] but they are sweetened so perhaps using tart frozen yogurt would be better?

3:05 PM, July 15, 2014  
Blogger tytty said...

My first experience with sour cherries was Sydney's Bourke Street Bakery's sour cherry and chocolate cookie. It was almost perfect, the tartness was a good counterpoint to the sweet chocolate.

Now I get them at a local Melbourne farmers market. They are so rare though, only one guy sells them, and in limited quantities. But goodness, they are so sour on their own

5:24 PM, July 17, 2014  
Blogger Liz Rehrauer said...

I grew up near Door County Wisconsin and picked pails of sour cherries for 25 cents a pail. I ate as many as I picked. I love no other fruit more than sour cherries, but I have never had them in a shake. I will try the shake. I buy them frozen or travel to Door County at the end of July. The season is never longer than 2 weeks. Thanks for the recipe.

3:46 PM, July 20, 2014  
Anonymous cascadian kitchen said...

Hi, Molly. I am new to this blog, but your nostalgic writing convinces me I'm wrong. You do wonderful things.

FOR THOSE WHO WANT FRESH SOUR CHERRIES AKA MONTMORENCY CHERRIES and WHO CAN SHOP IN SEATTLE, Tonnemaker Farms ( http://tonnemaker.com/cherries.html ) has them, and is selling them at farmers markets across the city.

6:36 PM, July 20, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are amazing! I maybe went through a quart of ice cream over the weekend. Can't be sure, it's always possible elves were involved. No sour cherries near me, so I used the jarred TJ's cherries as indicated. Splash in some juice if you want a pyrotechnic pink shake.

11:02 AM, July 21, 2014  
Blogger Margo said...

fascinating idea. I adore real cherry pie - I had the fake cherry pie filling pie until I had my first baby and someone brought us a cobbler that made me take notice. Now, my kids and I regularly pick sour (pie) cherries and pit them on the front porch before freezing them. We use a big paper clip for pitting - the kids squeeze too much juice out otherwise. Then I make cherry pies and cobblers all winter long. Will have to remember the milkshake next summer!

10:58 AM, July 22, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any information about frozen sour cherries?

5:27 PM, July 22, 2014  
OpenID forsythiaroot said...

Ooh! Just picked the last of the sour cherries on a camping trip in Michigan and made these! They were just as you said -- sparkly :^)

3:29 PM, July 27, 2014  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Can I please have this right now! Oh man, I have to find sour cherries here in London...!

2:37 AM, July 30, 2014  
Blogger Maria Lopez said...

Thank you for sharing..:) my kids will surely love this..:)

2:05 AM, August 19, 2014  
OpenID mauigirlcooks said...

This luscious looking pink milkshake sounds delicious!

11:42 PM, November 04, 2014  
Anonymous Hanna Daniels said...

Yummy!!!!! I can't wait to try make some next year!

5:09 AM, November 24, 2014  
Blogger Kristine Duncan said...

Good lord. Only two ingredients and it's milkshake perfection. I picked some sour cherries last week and popped them in the freezer until I could figure out what to do with them. And tonight I realized we had some vanilla ice cream on hand from our favorite local spot: Mallard. They were made for each other. Thank you, Molly!

8:54 PM, July 06, 2015  

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