Sweet or tart, potent cherries add zing to everything from pies to pork

Sweet or tart, potent cherries add zing to everything from pies to pork

August 8th, 2012 by Holly Leber in Life Entertainment

Jennifer Rintelman does not use "the red goo" -- sticky, syrupy premade fillings -- in her cherry pies.

"I guess it's what people think of when they think of cherry pie, but the real cherry lovers love that we use fresh cherries," said Rintelman, co-owner of Fork & Pie Bar on Market Street. "We use Bing cherries, which are already pretty sweet. We just add a little sugar and some thickener, and that's pretty much all that we put in the cherry pie."

Making a cherry pie, she said, is a labor of love -- emphasis on the labor part.

"We always use fresh cherries, and we spend forever pitting them."

The cherry pie at Fork & Pie will be available for only a limited time, as the cherry season won't be here much longer.

From yellow Rainiers to nearly black Angelas, cherries are a soft stone fruit that are at their peak during the summer months. A cup of raw cherries contains about 87 calories and 22 grams of carbohydrates, said Tom Cupo, registered dietitian at Erlanger Health Systems.

"The other great thing is that they're a great source of fiber, which is important in helping to regulate your (gastrointestinal) system and bring down your cholesterol."

Cherries also are rich in potassium, in vitamins C and E, in magnesium and in antioxidants.

"Anything really deep colored -- cherries, dark grapes, berries -- is going to be good for you because of the antioxidant concentration," Cupo said. "They're awesome, they taste great, and it's an easy, quick fun snack."

Tart cherries in particular are being touted for their health benefits and antioxidant properties. Sufferers of gout and arthritis consume tart cherry juice to alleviate symptoms of inflammation, according to Cupo and website Choose Cherries.com.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, cherries may assist with insomnia. Eating dried cherries also has been said to ward off the effects of jet lag, though Cupo said he could not confirm this.

"Because we know melatonin helps regulate your sleep cycle, and we know cherries contain melatonin, it's really easy to make that connection," he said. "It's not been proven as far as I know, but it's something that kind of makes sense. It's not going to hurt at all."

Really, he said, the only way cherries can hurt is to eat such a vast quantity as to make a significant caloric impact. Other than that, choose fresh cherries and rinse for cleanliness. And, with small children, watch out for pits, Cupo said.

Once rinsed and pitted, however, cherries can be eaten raw, cooked or frozen, out of hand, or in both savory and sweet dishes. Cherry sauce is a well-loved topping for lamb, pork or duck breast, and classic Black Forest cake combines chocolate, cherries, whipped cream and kirsch, a cherry-flavored brandy. Dried cherries have become a popular topping on salads, particularly paired with goat cheese. The pairing of cheese and cherries extends into desserts as well, and not just in cherry cheesecake.

Recently, Rintelman said, she had a request for cheddar cheese melted on top of a cherry pie.

"I've heard of that with apple but never with cherry. I guess cherry and cheddar could be the wave of the future."

Cherries in the Snow

For almond snow gelatin:

Vegetable oil for greasing baking dish

21/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-ounce envelope)

1/2 cup cold water

1 cup 1 percent or skim milk

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For cherries in port:

1/3 cup dried cherries (2 ounces)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup ruby port

To make almond snow gelatin:

Lightly oil an 8-inch-square glass baking dish with vegetable oil, wiping out any excess with a paper towel.

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a large heatproof bowl to soften, 1 minute.

Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat and whisk into gelatin mixture. Add almond extract, and whisk briskly until milk is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Pour into baking dish and freeze 15 minutes (to set foam), then chill, uncovered, in refrigerator until firm, at least 45 minutes.

To make cherries in port:

Simmer cherries, sugar and port in cleaned 1-quart heavy saucepan, uncovered, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Set pan in a bowl of ice and cold water and chill in refrigerator until syrupy, about 15 minutes.

To assemble:

Using a knife dipped in hot water, cut gelatin into 1-inch squares. Remove squares from dish with a spatula and divide, frothy sides up, among 6 chilled plates. Spoon cherries in port over squares.

-- Source: www.epicurious.com

Contact Holly Leber at hleber@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyleber. Subscribe to her on Facebook at facebook.com/holly.j.leber.