Fresh Cherries Bring Summer to Your Mouth

When I was growing up there was a sour cherry tree in my Aunt Babb’s yard. I remember the excitement of popping a fresh cherry into my mouth, being greeted by its sour juiciness —  and it was loads of fun to spit the stones at a family member.

The work of running the paring knife around each cherry to pit it and prepare the fruit for cooking, however, was not so much fun.

Cherries have a short season for their peak flavor, but they are wonderful and also very good for you. We’ve come a long way in making working with the cherry bounty so much easier. Today’s cherry pitters come in all shapes and sizes, from the ultra-durable cast iron ones to the modern, easy-to-clean models. Lehman’s has some great ones at your fingertips, so choose the one that’s right for you. Here are three easy and delicious recipes that will have you enjoying your fresh cherries in no time…

Savory Pork Chops with Sour Cherry Sauce
Easy sides (like steamed green beans and rice or quinoa) make it a feast even during the week!

4 center-cut loin pork chops, about an inch thick
Salt and pepper
2 TBS olive oil
1 C chicken stock
1 tsp minced garlic
2 C pitted sour cherries
½ C beef stock
1 TBS lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1 TBS butter

Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and add oil. When first wisps of smoke start – raise temperature to high and add pork. Do not crowd;  use two pans if needed. Move chops around to brown on all sides. This is a quick step -  4 minutes at most. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 cup chicken stock, garlic. Cook 10 minutes covered on low. Remove chops to a plate. To skillet add beef stock, cherries, lemon juice, zest  and butter. Heat through, pour over pork chops and serve.

Fresh Cherry Picnic Salad

1 cup sugar snap peas
2 cups pitted t fresh sweet cherries
1 medium cucumber halved, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup red radishes, cut into wedge shaped pieces
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each toasted sesame seeds and grated fresh ginger root
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Blanch peas in boiling salted water 1 minute; plunge into iced water to cool. Drain. Mix cherries, cucumber, radishes and peas. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour over cherry mixture and toss to coat. Marinate, refrigerated, at least one hour.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Cherry Stuffed Grilled Chicken
Fix up your cherries while the grill heats up.

1-1/2 cups pitted and coarsely chopped fresh sweet cherries
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon each salt and chopped fresh thyme
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4 to 6 oz. each)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Combine cherries, onion, sage, salt and thyme; mix well. Cut a pocket on the thicker side of the chicken breast; sprinkle lightly with salt if desired. Stuff 1/4 of cherry mixture into the pocket; close opening with metal skewers or wooden picks. Combine oil, vinegar, garlic salt and pepper; mix well. Marinate stuffed chicken breasts 1/2 hour in refrigerator. Broil or grill chicken breasts, brushing with marinade, until fully cooked and juices run clear when sliced. Makes 4 servings.

Cherry Tip: Pit some extra cherries while you have your equipment out and place them in a food dehydrator following the manufacturer’s directions and you’ll enjoy dried cherries all year long.

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