It's a cherry kind of week, I guess.
While Sydney was inspired by sweet cherries to make her pie, I discovered that next week's Dreyer Farm CSA was going to include sour cherries. I got Christmas/birthday/holding-a-new-baby/I-get-to-eat-wedding-cake excited.
Sour cherries remind me of my grandma. My grandma Santee was already 70 years old when I was born, so she was always old to me. That didn't mean we weren't constant companions, her taking me wherever she went in her rag-rug-covered backseat next to her smelly poodle, Lubi. You'd think garage sale-ing or hanging out at the senior citizens' center wouldn't be fun for an 8-year-old, but I loved every minute of it. She laughed easily, loved to be around people and could see no wrong from her son or her grand-kids. She died at 100 years old and I am so lucky that even thought she was always an old lady, she was never old at heart, and I got to spend 30 good years with her before she died.
We've established that I'm passionate about food. Just one of the reasons is that it connects me to my loved ones. I will never forget my grandma's hands, spotted with age, but still elegant and slender, peeling an apple in one long, unbroken peel. Her strawberry-rhubarb sauce, served over vanilla ice cream, is still the pinnacle of comfort food. Born in 1909, she lived the entire century of food. She was a young bride during the Great Depression. She lived through both World Wars and rationing. She wasted nothing. She also carried from the 1950s and 60s a love for Jell-o molds, ambrosia salad and an interesting (strangely delicious) concoction called Cherokee Casserole. I don't think native Cherokees actually combined ground beef, minute rice, cream of mushroom soup and diced tomatoes and then topped it with Kraft singles and sliced green olives in an electric skillet, but whoever did found a few devotees in my family.
And then my grandma's sour cherry pie. It was the 1980s and her car had no air-conditioning. We'd hit up a few garage sales and then a local farm for several quarts of sour cherries. She'd place them on the backseat, between Lubi and me, and I'd sneak them on the drive home, my stomach beginning to ache from all the sour. Back at her house, she'd sit at the kitchen table, slowly pitting all of the cherries with a bobby pin, while we sipped glasses of root beer. She'd fold tapioca pearls and sugar into the cherries, tuck them into her pie crust and after it baked we'd eat it warm, swinging on the porch swing at twilight.
And this is why I love to cook. I hope my children, and maybe someday grandchildren, have a fraction of the memories of warmth and love that I have from being fed by my grandma. And this is why when Dawn, from Dreyer Farm, asked us to make a recipe for sour cherries, I felt some serious joy.
Most people have a fruit pie recipe they love, so I decided to make a jam instead. In my house, we've been making summer fruit shortcakes with the scones from Breadsmith. This jam was perfect over a scone with fresh sliced peaches from last week's CSA and a little whipped cream. Two quarts of sour cherries makes 6 pints of jam, which is just the right amount to get you through the winter and early spring.
Now, go make some summer food memories!