When I started thinking about Greenwich Meal Time, I intended to write about local food sources – growing in my own garden, buying at farmer’s markets, foraging in the wild, and visits to area farms. When I finally started posting in December, sources for local produce were waning, though here in Washington County we can almost always find local cheeses, bread, prepared foods (like the dinners offered by Spoonful) and meat, but the emphatic inspiration of summer is ephemeral come January through April. Instead, I depend on what I put by in the freezer, cellar and the pantry. The flash frozen fruit I still have in mid-March include Damson plums, blackberries, raspberries and sour cherries.
Sour cherries are available just briefly in earliest July. Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville has several trees and this past year I went to pick my own. The Darrows told me that the tart bright red fruit sells well at the farmer’s markets, but not many people come looking for them at the orchard. If you haven’t tried sour cherries – this year make sure you stop in and ask Nate for a couple pints. Sour cherries combine beautifully with almond flavors and make a great Independence Day pie, tart or clafouti.
When sweetened with sugar, sour cherries have a more intensely cherry flavor than the varieties (like Bing) usually eaten out of hand. Get yourself an inexpensive cherry pitter, wear an apron or old clothes (sour cherry juice has a bleaching effect) and pit as many quarts as you can. I had two gallons of cherries stored, ready to pull out when I most needed the reminder of fresh fruit and the vibrant flavors of summer. Frozen cherries can be used for pies, cakes, and jams. I try to use up all my frozen fruit before the next crop arrives.
Serves up to 8 happy diners.
Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 (or more!) cups pitted sour cherries
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 9-inch round cake pan then line with parchment. Combine the 3T butter and almond extract in a small measuring cup and pour the mixture into the pan. Tilt the pan to coat with the butter mixture. Sprinkle the 1/2-cup sugar, and arrange the cherries in a single layer in the pan. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and 2/3-cup sugar, then beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. In thirds, beat this dry mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. I found the batter a little drier than I expected so I added a tablespoon of water. You may have a slightly different result depending on the size of your egg. If the batter seems too dense you can add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to make for easier spreading over the cherries.
Pour the batter evenly over the cherries. Bake until the top of the cake is deep red and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 30 – 35 minutes.
While the cake bakes toast the sliced almonds. Sprinkle the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven along with the cake but be careful not to burn the nuts. Stir nuts at 5 minutes, check again at 8 minutes. You want them slightly golden and crisp. Remove from oven to cool and allow cake to finish.
When the cake tester proves the cake is finsihed, remove cake from the oven. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving plate, being careful in case the juices are still liquid. Sprinkle the top with toasted almonds. Serve warm or within 24 hours. Could be embellished with a scoop of vanilla or amaretto gelato.
When tasted the cake straight out of the oven I thought it was too sweet. By the next day it seemed perfect. You may want to experiment. I will post any corrections after subsequent tests.
To clarify – you may note that in my photo I baked the almonds into the cherries. On tasting and reflecting I revised this step. A little crunch would be a nice touch. I’ll make this cake again for the coming weekend using the golden crispy slices as a garnish.