‘Tis the season to be cherry

Cherries have long been linked to the most magical time of the year.

Their redness and rarity lend them to make perfect festive fruit – plus, their season coincides with the holidays. They’re indulgent, whimsical and special, bringing extra delight to any occasion.

Cherry Time, SA’s foremost cherry producer –has collaborated with some of South Africa’s top recipe creators who have crafted timeless dishes to put the cherry into your summer feasting.

No-fuss cherry pop tarts

Saadiyah Hendricks (@sadiesbubbleofyum)

You’ll need: 2 cups Cherry Time cherries, pitted and halved; ¼ cup sugar; juice of ½ lemon; ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1 tablespoon cornstarch; 1 tablespoon water; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 500g puff pastry sheets; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon water; sugar for sprinkling; 2 tablespoons of the Cherry filling; 1 cup icing sugar; 1 teaspoon water.

How to:

In a small saucepan, on medium heat, whisk the cherries, sugar, lemon and cinnamon. In a bowl, mix cornstarch with the water.

When the Cherry mixture starts boiling, add the cornstarch and whisk for a few minutes until thick and syrupy. Finally, add the vanilla and let it cool completely.

Prepare the pastry by cutting it into equal size rectangles and placing them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

To assemble, on every alternate pastry rectangle place in the centre a tablespoon of the Cherry filling (keep aside 2 tablespoons for the glaze) allowing for a border, then cover with another pastry rectangle, sealing the ends by using the tip of a fork to indent the edges.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and place the pop tarts in the freezer while the oven heats up. In the interim, prepare your egg wash by mixing whisking the egg and water. Then brush the egg over the surface of each tart and finally sprinkle with sugar before popping into the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you prepare the Cherry glaze.

To make the glaze, mix the sugar, Cherry filling and water then strain through a sieve and spoon over the cooled tarts.

Merry cherry messes

Angie Batis (@miss_luckypony)

You’ll need: For the cherry syrup – 1 cup Sweet Cherry Time Cherries – pitted; 1 cup sugar; 1 cup water; 1 tsp lemon juice.

For the meringues – 4 egg whites – room temp; 220g castor sugar; 2 tsp white vinegar.

For the cherry cream – 250ml fresh cream; 3 Tbsp cherry syrup; a big handful of Cherry Time Cherries sliced – just cut around the pip.

How to:

In a pot over medium heat bring the cherries, sugar, water and lemon juice to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 12 mins.

Remove from heat, then with a wooden spoon push down hard on the cherries before pouring the syrup through a sieve and into a bowl. Push as much liquid through the sieve as possible. Cool syrup completely.

How to make meringues: Preheat the oven to 130°C. Place a piece of baking paper onto a baking tray.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer beat the egg whites until fluffy, then slowly add the sugar a tablespoon at a time.

Once you have a thick glossy mixture, add the vinegar and mix for 3 minutes.

Spoon it into a piping bag fitted with whatever nozzle you like and start by making the bottom halves of your pavlovas. I piped out round flat circles about 10 cm wide.

For the tops, use 2 different star-shaped tips – pip out small meringues next to one another to form little constellations.

Bake everything for an hour. Once done turn off your oven and let the tray of meringues cool down inside.

How to serve – Beat the cream until stiff peaks form then gently stir in the syrup and sliced cherries.

Place a cooled meringue disc on a plate, add a big dollop of cream, then top that with a meringue constellation. Pour cherry syrup over them just before serving

Cherry almond cake

Vanessa Vermaak, (@my_homemade_kitchen_za)

You’ll need: 250g Fresh Cherry Time cherries pitted (pprox.. 250 – 350g); 113g unsalted butter softened to room temperature; 150g golden caster or light brown sugar white/ castor will also work if needed; 2 large eggs; 5ml vanilla extract; 64g all-purpose/ cake flour; 2g baking powder; 1.5g salt; 100g ground almonds/ almond flour; icing sugar for sprinkling/ decorating.

How to:

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Then grease a small 18 – 20cm springform cake tin with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottom with a piece of baking paper. Set aside

De-stalk and pit the cherries, trying to keep them whole. Set aside*

In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar together until smooth

Then add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix through. Then fold in the ground almonds until incorporated

Spoon half the batter into the prepared cake tin then even out to cover the bottom. Add half the cherries, then spoon over the remainder of the batter to cover the cherries. Add the remainder of the cherries on top. Note: The batter should be thick and not too easy to spread. It will only fill the tin around ⅓ – ½ way, but it does rise while baking. During the rise, the top cherries will sink so you do not have to push them into the batter before baking

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and a skewer/cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (Please do test the cake as cherries hold a lot of moisture which might require an extra 5 minutes of baking time)

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for around 10 – 15 minutes. Then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack

Dust with icing sugar before serving

Notes: If you do not have a cherry pitter, you can use a thick skewer/ sosatie stick and push the back end through the cherry. The pit should pop out the other end.

Cherry fast facts:

  • There’s a Cherry Tree Carol that originates from the early 15th Century.
  • There’s also a medieval tale of Sir Cleges and his Christmas Cherry Tree.
  • It’s clear … a very cherry festive call for the ripe red fruit! Cherries signal the start of the festive season and togetherness … they only grow for a short season that coincides with the holidays, and their redness and rarity makes them super special and celebratory.
  • They’re perfect for cocktails … they’ve been used in cocktails since the 19th Century in the States.
  • And they’re the ultimate festive food – think cherry Christmas cake, cherry trifle, cherry pie, cherries and Christmas gammon, cherry ice cream cake, cherries in red wine with good vanilla ice cream, cherry bread and butter pudding, roast duck and cherry glaze, chocolate cake and cherry compote … nothing’s a merry (or indulgent) as cherries
  • Western Cape is the largest growing area of cherries (80 per cent of the volume)
  • Cherries are judged based on sugar, stem and fruit colour – the fruit should be a dark red and the stem a fresh green. They’re harvested one by one at peak eating quality when they’re at their most visually appealing for the best cherry experience.  
  • Harvest season is usually wrapped up in 6-8 weeks.
  • They’re packed with antioxidants and contain melatonin (aids with sleep), potassium (helps prevent hypertension) and B-vitamins (metabolism-boosting).

Buy Cherry Time cherries online or from Pick ‘n Pay and other select local stores.

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