I had a love affair when I was 18. It was a beautiful late spring day; warmer than usual, with the sun shining down from a dark turquoise sky, slowly turning my golden skin brown; the smell of warm earth, cut grass and body lotion mingling in that heady perfume of Summer Days. I was fresh and young and innocent, newly graduated from High School; ready and gleeful with the anticipation of starting my adult life. My family had decided to take a Grande Tour for our Summer Holiday that year; a long slow trek from the highveld of my hometown; across the vast and fertile plains of the Free State Farms; through the desolate, peaceful and quiet stretches of the Small and Large Karroo’s and finally over the escarpment and down, down, down to the Cape of Good Hope. Sometime before heading down that impressive, jaggered escarpment into the land of vineyards and dry Mediterranean air we stopped in the mountains, in a cosy little town tucked away in the most beautiful valley, sitting like an emerald jewel in the midst of the dry, rocky peaks. We were here to pick cherries.
Ceres is renowned the world over for it’s abundance of superlative deciduous fruits; you may have seen fruit juices of that name selling in your local supermarket or delicatessen. And on a warm, sunny, early Summer day long ago I was fortunate enough to be in that very valley, falling in love with sun-warm, chin-staining black cherries, plump with sweet juice and full of the promise of life. It was one of those defining moments with food, a moment so deeply stained on my soul that I find myself back in that valley every so often when I bite into a large, sweet Bing cherry. It’s a fruit, that to me, will always taste of youth and sun and freedom.
It was a particularly good year for cherries this year and I attempted to make the most of the bounty. That is the berries that made it into a dish and escaped being eaten by the cup, fresh and juicy, reminding me of that summer love so long ago. So, even though I’m now sitting waiting for the first snow of the season and wandering what to fill my Christmas Stockings with I thought I’d share a bit of What Went Down this summer in the Lick Your Own Bowl Kitchen. Enjoy!
Maybe I could tempt you with a Sour Cherry Tart?
Or perhaps a Dark Cherry and Pernod Jelly:
Until next harvest, dear Cherries, I await the reunion of a fine love affair.