One of the few foods that really tends not to be available in California is sour cherries - when I've asked about them at farmer's markets I've often gotten blank looks from the vendors. They seem to be much more of a Midwest thing, although I did once snag them at the market (for an exorbitant price!). This year, though, I was lucky that a friend from church offered to let me pick sour cherries off the trees in her yard. I can definitely see why these delicate fruits aren't as popular in stores - you have to use them right away and they're very delicate - but if you are able to get your hands on any, they're so worth it! Despite a broken oven, I was determined to enjoy these cherries, so I ended up making a crumble in a pie plate that just barely fit in our toaster oven!
This crumble combines two classic flavors - cherry and vanilla. I often don't love this combination, because it's typically done with sweet cherries. I think that sweet cherries and vanilla together can be a bit cloying, but sour cherries have the perfect tartness to offset the richer flavor of vanilla. The cherries here are prepared very simply, with just sugar to sweeten them and cornstarch to thicken their liquid. The topping is buttery, rich, and full of lots of vanilla flavor from ground vanilla - one of my favorite ways to use vanilla since it's less expensive than whole beans but doesn't add liquid like vanilla extract. Together, the topping and cherries come together to create a perfect summer dessert!
In other news, I will be participating in the San Francisco AIDS Walk this coming Sunday. If you'd care to make a pledge in support of this important cause, you can do so here - thank you!
Sour Cherries with Vanilla Crumble
Makes one 8-inch round crumble
For the cherries:
1-1/2 pounds pitted sour cherries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
Big pinch of salt
For the crumble:
6 T cold butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1/2 T ground vanilla
Big pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Stir together the cherries, sugar, corn starch and salt. Scoop into an 8-inch round pie plate.
3. Cut together the butter and sugar. Add the flour, ground vanilla, and salt and cut in. Squeeze together with your fingers to form little clumps (there will be large and small pieces), and then sprinkle over the cherries.
4. Bake until the topping is browned and the cherries are bubbling, 50-60 minutes.