Wine Poached Cherries with Ricotta
June 27, 2012 § 3 Comments
There is an old cherry tree in the back of my mother’s yard. There, every other year, friends and family gather to pick cherries when tips of branches drip with ripe, juicy, deep red fruit in the warm sun of early summer.
This year, there was a bumper crop. The branches sagged low to the ground with the weight of the plump cherries and on every branch and twig; there hung a round, red cherry ready to be devoured. Hungry birds were frantically shooed away, and phone calls went out to inform the anticipating cherry lovers that the tree was ready for picking. Only a few words were said during these phone calls, “The cherries are ready for picking, better come fast.” Minutes from these calls, visitors rapped on the back screen door with buckets in hand and wooden ladders already leaning against the trunk of the old tree.
My mother always walks out to the old cherry tree with the visitors, chatting about the crop of cherries, how the birds, squirrels and raccoons have already started their feast, reminiscing about the cherry tree that used to be on her grandparent’s farm, where family members, like with my mother’s tree, gathered in their old clothes with buckets and ladders to pick cherries.
The lowest branches of the tree are saved for children who are still too small to climb on the branches of the old tree or the ladder that leans against its trunk. The children gaze in wonder at the luscious fruit and delicately select the very best cherries from the sagging, low branches, popping some cherries in their mouths and placing others, reserved for later, gently in the bucket.
Only one or two days after the phone calls to the expectant cherry pickers and the flurry of visitors, the cherries vanish. There are no signs, no sentimental goodbyes until next time, just a quiet morning where my mother makes the discovery. She wakes up and walks out into a yard still sprinkled with morning dew. The cherry tree is stripped, even the birds that readily found ripe cherries on the topmost outer branches now flurry from limb to limb searching for the sweet fruit. My mother pushes the branches from side to side, goes under the tree and gazes up through intertwining limbs and undulating light, trying to spy a dot of red. Nothing- not one ripe cherry is left. The beauty and bounty of the cherry tree is fleeting, and all who know nature understand this.
A smile spreads across my mother’s face as she thinks about the visitors, the cherries that were popped in mouths and smeared on old clothes, the plop, plop of cherries as they dropped in metal buckets from wooden old ladders. Not all things about nature are temporary
This year, I was fortunate enough to receive some of these cherished cherries. With these delicious treasures, I made wine poached cherries with ricotta.
Wine Poached Cherries with Ricotta Recipe
-2 1/4 pounds cherries, pitted, room temperature
-2 cups dry red wine
-2/3 cup sugar
-1 vanilla bean sliced and scraped – seeds and bean reserved
-3 fresh basil leaves
-3 three-inch strips lemon zest
-1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
Pit cherries and put in a large heatproof bowl.
In a medium saucepan, combine wine, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, basil and lemon zest. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour hot mixture over cherries.
Let cherries soak in wine mixture until they are slightly soft (about 1 hour).
Drain cherries, reserving the poaching liquid. Discard the basil, vanilla bean and lemon zest strips. Put liquid into a medium saucepan and cherries into a large bowl. Bring wine poaching liquid to a boil and continue to boil until liquid has reduced to 1 cup.
Pour hot liquid over cherries and chill for a minimum of 1 hour.
Serve cherries in a shallow bowl topped with ricotta.