Operation Cherry was a moderate success. I managed to save some but it was truly sad to see how much was wasted. Yes, I’m obsessing but forgive me: édes cseresznye (sweet cherries) have been my life for the last three days.
And it’s not just my édes cseresznye that are suffering. I read today that the usual 12-15000 ton annual average is set to drop to below 10000 this year because of the incessant rain. And it would seem that my sweet cherries are of the Rita variety (or Bigarreau Burlat, but the photos I can find look more like a Rita and the BBs are French in origin), as these are the ones that are ripe right now.
“Rita” opens the sweet cherry season and usually its fruits are free of maggots thanks to the early ripening. Its slow growth and the high yields make it a valuable asset to gourmets who cannot await the beginning of the sweet cherry season.
As a piece of trivia, Hungarian édes cseresznye varieties seem to have girl’s names – Rita, Carmen, Margit, Katalin, Linda, while the Germans favour giants: Germersdorfi óriás and Hedelfingeni óriás.
Most of the cherries produced in Hungary are eaten here, too, with only about 20% heading across the borders. I’d imagine it’ll be even less this year. And, of course, with there being a supply problem, prices will increase – perhaps as much as 30%, according to Ferenc Apáti of FruitVeb.
Fruit production is big in Hungary. The land on either side of the old road into Nagykanizsa from Zalakomár is practically all set in fruit – all sorts of fruit – a relatively recent expansion. It’s such a delicate crop that any sort of adverse weather must have the fruitiers in a lather. Cherries make up less than 5% of Hungarian fruit production but still add up to about 4 billion ft annually (€12.3 million; $13.8 million) so they’re definitely important to someone. And for home producers like me, a 30% drop is significant, although I estimate my losses this year to be more in the region of 50%.
I’ve come out of it with six jars of cherry/cinnamon butter and six of cherry/clove. Butter is what the recipe calls it but it doesn’t have that texture. It’s like pureéd runny jam. I’ve tried it on bread, on cheese, and on cake and it works. I had to ditch five jars of édes cseresznye jam as whatever has been going on in the rain, the cherries must be loaded with sugar. Or I overcooked it. Mind you, it didn’t seem that long. Anyway, I needed a chisel to break into it the next morning so that was a dismal failure. I did manage to salvage 6 litres of whole cherries – compared to about 12 last year. And I’ve nothing for the freezer except some cherry muffins I baked yesterday along with some cherry and orange cake for the cake tin.
I’ve picked all the édes cseresznye I can reach but I’m holding out faint hope that himself might be able to get higher with the taller ladder and his longer reach. But given the forecast for the rest of the week, that’s not at all certain.
I did get one small bottle of cherry syrup (and froze the pulp for smoothies) and was fascinated to read about the potential benefits of cherries, stuff I never knew.
Tart cherry juice’s anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce symptoms of arthritis and gout.
That said, it could all be hogwash and it’s sour cherries I needed anyway, not sweet. But still.
Okay, so we’re not as well positioned this year as we were in previous years and we’re unlikely to be eating our own cherries in the early part of 2020, but still, we have some and some is better than none at all. Apart from a few scrapes and cuts and bites and burns, I came through the experience relatively unscathed. The kitchen looks like a murder scene with cherry juice stains everywhere. I learned stuff that might come in handy someday in a table quiz and can now spell édes cseresznye. What’s not to be grateful for?
Recipes for édes cseresznye