For two Sundays in a row we were greeted at the gate of the my family’s country home in Navelli by a tree awash with cherries. I don’t know the exact species but when you have 4 buckets of dark, fresh, organic (we do absolutely nothing to the tree) juicy cherries just two steps of a ladder up and you don’t really care about the name. I am not a born gardener or farmer, the idea of having a little farm or taking care of the garden makes me want to hide in bed. But when it’s just calling out to you like that…..
So as Emily rode her bike and chased farm cats, Sofia read under the pines and Linda cared for her wide-blossomed roses, I put on some old clothes and started picking. After about 15 minutes of plucking cherries so ripe a handful would come off without their stems, I was already taking breaks to rinse off the sugar when the stickiness started to make it hard to keep the leaves off. At the end I looked like a doctor in a Mel Brooks film.
The problem, of course, was what to do with four buckets of ripe, fresh Apennine mountain cherries. By nightfall we had already eaten enough to last us a year. A few Tupperware container full when to friends and family. This time I tried to make a marmellata (marmalade). Fania, my sister and law is the real expert on this, simple but long process of making topping for ice cream or yoghurt or to spread on toast. The original recipe calls for melting down (but not boiling) sugar in exact proportion (1lb cherries, one pound of sugar) in a few tablespoons of water. Just before the sugar starts to brown, we throw in the well-rinsed and dried cherries and bring to a slow boil, stirring periodically until the juice around the cherries no long rolls down a wooden cutting board. Fania and I prefer putting in as little as a quarter the amount of sugar (you can always add it in later), which means that the boiling process takes longer until the cherries’ own sugars kick in.
In addition to the sugar amounts, there are many variations on the theme: add cherry, or amaretto o limoncello, or spices like cinnamon.
But the important thing is that my bunch did not shed their blood in vain.
(photos of blood an roses as soon as I find the cable to downoadthem 😉