The Central Valley is raining cherries at the moment, with more than a dozen varieties expected on display at our local farmers’ markets throughout the season.
The first of the cherry crop emerged a few weeks ago out of the Bakersfield area in Kern County, quickly followed by those out of neighboring counties such as Fresno and Tulare.
Cherries are one of those seasonal items that seemingly come and go in the blink of an eye, so if you are at all a fan of fresh cherries harvested right out of the orchard, now is the time to take advantage of one of nature’s tastiest treats.
This week, the Brooks cherries are probably the best and most readily available. Possessing all of the trademark characteristics of the ideal cherry, they are plump, very crisp and quite sweet. This richly flavored variety yields a deep fed flesh, most comparable in flavor and texture to the infamous red Bing cherry.
My kids have been devouring these sweet Brooks cherries right out of the bag purchased at our farmers markets. I always make sure to have a discard bowl close by for the stems and pits.
I also prepared a cherry, peach and blueberry crisp this week that was quite a hit for dessert. You can use fresh cherries to make a homemade cherry preserve, or a topping for pancakes, waffles or ice cream. This week I prepared a cherry-based barbecue sauce, a nice addition to barbecued ribs, chicken and various pork preparations.
Cherry Barbecue Sauce
1 pound fresh cherries
1 medium onion, diced
2 green onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper
Remove pits and stems from cherries and set aside. Sauté onions and garlic in butter at medium-low heat until soft. Then mix in remaining ingredients and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can leave the sauce slightly chunky, or puree until smooth.
Yield: Makes about 3 1/2 cups.