It’s cherry season and it’s well-known world wide that Canadian cherries are the finest on the planet. And the best cherries boasting the highest sugar content in the world are grown right here in the interior of British Columbia, in the Okanagan to be exact.
There are really only two kinds of cherries: the sweet and the sour, or pie cherry, but there are many different varieties. According to my research, most of our export varieties of cherries were cultivated and developed right here in B.C. at the Summerland Research Station, including varieties like the Skeena, Sweetheart, Satin, Staccato, Sovereign and the Centennial, names many of us aren’t too familiar with. Bings, Lamperts, Vans, Rainier and Lambert varieties have been around for so long their names are synonomous with cherries for most of us.
As well as tasting amazing, our cherries are full of wonderful health benefits as well. Okanagan cherries contain high levels of melatonin and anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants with great anti-inflammatory properties. The melatonin works wonders for combating stress and jet lag. Cherries are an excellent source of vitamin C and fibre; low in fat, including saturated fat; and sodium- and cholesterol-free.
Today’s recipes include an easy fresh dessert, a tasty muffin, a sour cherry pie and lastly, a teriyaki chicken lettuce wrap which has an intriguing mixture of cherries, ginger, rice vinegar, carrots and almonds all wrapped into crisp lettuce.
Easy Fresh Cherry Dessert
1 cup pitted fresh cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1 large banana, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
Combine cherries and sugar; chill for 1 to 2 hours. Combine chilled cherries with banana and nuts; fold in whipped cream. Serve in dessert glasses. Serves 4.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cherries (can use frozen in winter)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
Grease and flour 15 muffin cups or line with paper liners. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking powder, flour, sugar and cinnamon; add cherries and stir gently to blend.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, flavouring, milk and melted butter until well- blended. Stir egg and milk mixture into the dry mixture.
Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake cherry muffins for 20 to 25 minutes.
Fresh Sour Cherry Pie
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds (4 cups) pitted fresh red sour cherries
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pastry for 2-crust 9-inch pie, unbaked
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
Combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Mix with cherries, adding extract. Roll out pastry. Use half to line a deep 9-inch pie pan; trim. Pour in cherry mixture and dot with butter. Cut remaining pastry into 5/8-inch strips.
Arrange pastry strips, lattice fashion, over all. Seal edges with water. If a glazed topping is desired, carefully brush lattice with evaporated milk or egg white.
Bake in preheated hot oven (425 degrees F) for 10 minutes; reduce heat to moderate (350 degrees F) and continue baking about 30 minutes longer, or until crust is well-done. Serve warm with ice cream if desired.
Teriyaki Chicken Cherry Lettuce Wraps
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken
breast halves, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 pound dark sweet cherries, pitted and
1-1/2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/3 cup toasted and sliced almonds
12 leaves of lettuce
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ginger and chicken and sauté until cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, teriyaki sauce and honey until mixed together. Add chicken mixture, cherries, carrot, green onion and almonds; toss together.
To Serve: spoon 1/12 of the chicken/cherry mixture onto the centre of each lettuce leaf; roll up leaf around filling and serve. Chicken never had it so good!
Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.