'Gyere kislányom, a hideg meggyleves nagyon finom! (come my little girl, this cold cherry soup is really delicious!),' my mother, Irén, would say as she beckoned me to taste her freshly made, ice-cold soup. Clearly she loved it, and indeed it must have been very good. For with each spoonful she would close her eyes, form a smile, raise her shoulders towards her neck (as you do when something is immensely pleasurable), and make the 'Mmmm' sound. Actually I can still see the look of bliss on her face... it was as though this lovely lady, who had lived a much harder life than most of us could imagine, had just died and gone to heaven.
With this picture in mind, to this day I'm still wondering why I never wanted to taste that cold cherry soup. I have 'had a thing' for cherries ever since childhood, I'm a cherry aficionado. I love them, in fact I can (and do) devour them by the kilo, and yet I just couldn't come at the thought of eating cherries that had been cooked, mixed with sour cream and then chilled. Why? Who knows. This is one of those situations in life that niggles me, and if I could turn back time to be in the company of my mother and enjoy some of her cold cherry soup, I'd do it in a heartbeat!
I'm a cherry aficionado, I devour them by the kilo...
A box of fresh cherries from one of Victoria's oldest and most highly regarded cherry orchards, Cherryhill Orchards, arrived on my doorstep earlier this week (thank you so much!). As you will see in the image above, the cherries from Cherryhill are exceptionally good... big, beautiful and bursting with flavour. In fact, they're the plumpest and most delicious cherries I've ever had the pleasure of eating. Following a wet winter and ideal spring conditions, Cherryhill's trees are now full of sweet cherries just waiting to be picked. The orchard is located just an hour from Melbourne's CBD and so is the perfect outing for a family picnic. Perhaps next year Peter and I will visit and pick our own fruit. Just imagine, all you can eat cherries fresh from the trees. Woo hoo! For now, I'm planning to order a few boxes as Christmas gifts for my nearest and dearest, as well as a box or two for Peter and myself. I'm thinking cherry pie, cherry cake and some choc-dipped cherry indulgences too.
My mother made cold cherry soup in the Hungarian way, using pitted sour cherries. In The Cuisine of Hungary (Penguin, 1971), George Laing shared a receipt from a seventeenth century manuscript and it's very similar to the method my mother used. She would combine a couple of spoonfuls of flour with the same of sour cream and sugar, and stir it until the mixture was free from lumps. Meanwhile she'd cook the cherries in a sugar syrup until they were tender. Then, she'd combine some of the cherry syrup liquid with the flour/sour cream mixture, stirring it through. And then she'd pour the flour mixture into the pot of cherries in syrup and cook it gently for a few minutes and chill it thoroughly before she served it.
With my recipe, I've eliminated the flour and added a little cinnamon and some vanilla bean paste. I recommend that you grind the cinnamon fresh for the best flavour. Cold cherry soup is delicious as a mid afternoon treat on a hot summer's day. It can also be served as a starter or a dessert, and sits well on a festive table, especially in the southern hemisphere.
COLD CHERRY SOUP
500g pitted fresh cherries
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1.5-2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 tablespoons low fat sour cream or plain yoghurt
Combine the cherries, caster sugar, water, cinnamon and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cherries are tender. Remove the saucepan from the stovetop and allow the 'soup' to cool. Then transfer it to a blender and pulse/process until smooth. Add the sour cream or yoghurt and pulse until mixed in. Chill thoroughly before serving. This quantity will serve 4.
The process in pictures...
Serve the soup well chilled...
When you taste cherries as beautiful as these, life is just a bowl of cherries...
'With each spoonful ... it was as if she had just died and gone to heaven...'
Love cherries? You might also enjoy...
Tell me dear readers, do you consider yourself a cherry aficionado? And are there any foods you wished you had eaten sooner?
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.