Last year I wrote about my most favorite fruit moment of the year: when the sour cherries are ripe. It's quick, fleeting, and must be made the most of. Fortunately, sour cherries freeze really well and make an amazing winter treat (on ice cream or in Greek yogurt, just to name a few ways to enjoy them). Well, last September at the brunch following my daughter's wedding, I was talking to one of the guests, whose amazing name is Heewa Barfchin. I don't quite remember how we got to talking about sour cherries. I remember he thought I looked Scandinavian. He is Iranian. And he said that in Iran, they add rosewater to their sour cherry sauce.
And that started a slight obsession. I searched for organic rosewater. I even briefly considered making it myself, until I realized how complicated it really is. Finally, I went to our local Lebanese grocery (Soumaya Bakery), which makes amazing whole wheat pitas and delicious baba ghanoush, hummus, tabbouleh, and fresh feta. The man behind the counter assured me that they barely use chemicals on roses in the Middle East, since they don't have to. Whether I believe him or not doesn't really matter. I bought some. My father used to take me to Soumaya when I was a young girl, before they had their brand new shiny store -- back when it was in the front of a row house on one of the scarier streets in Allentown. I love the continuity of taking my daughters there, and telling them that story, and coming home with a bag full of treats.
Anyway, this year I had a precious batch of sour cherries. So I washed them, pitted them, and boiled them with a tiny bit of water and a nice dose of organic sugar... I boiled them until they turned magenta and frothed a bit. Then I added a dash or two of rosewater. And we ate it on ice cream (vanilla). And it was good! One daughter thought it tasted a bit like lip gloss, which she liked. We all agreed it added a degree of depth and complexity to the flavor. I still love sour cherries plain. But I also love them with rosewater, and I'm very grateful for Heewa's tip.
Last year, I even planted sour cherry trees! This year, even though they are still babies, one of them has about 10 cherries on them. So now, every year, my whole family can enjoy the magical rare treat of sour cherries (with and without rosewater).
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.