December 5, 2010

Cherry, Cherry. Oh So Many!

Cherries in Rose & Vanilla Syrup

When I was little, I loved the thrill of waiting for a certain festive season to come so I could feast on special food to commemorate the occasion.  For instance, it was only during Eid that we Malays would seriously indulge in a mind-boggling, appetite-inducing festive spread that included ketupat (rice cake in weaved coconut leaves), rendang (spicy beef dish), lodeh (vegetables in coconut milk), sambal goreng (spicy vegetables), kueh tart (pineapple tart), kueh makmur (sweet peanut roll)...the list goes on.  I'd better stop here before I start drooling on my keyboard.  Back then, it would be unusual to see such food on the dining table outside of the festive season.  In a way, it kept the festive excitement and mood in check until it was really time to celebrate.  However, times have changed.  These special dishes are now available all year round, ignorantly assassinating the festive thrills.

Gorgeous red cherries.  My mum-in-law had intentionally picked them prematurely as otherwise,
none will be left because the possums will be feasting on them, right from the tree! 

Because of the temperate climate here in Australia, I'm glad to be able to redeem the thrills of waiting for seasonal crops.   I came from summer-all-year-round Singapore, a tropical city-state that sits comfortably on the equator.  That means seasonal food is virtually unheard of unless it's to do with tropical fruits like durian, rambutan, mangosteen, longan, etc.  Even then, with modern techniques, they have been cultivated to become available almost all year-round.  That has somewhat led to a further loss of seasonal thrills for me.

As I'm writing this, mangoes, peaches, plums and cherries, just to name a few are in season now in Australia.  Our peach and plum trees in the backyard are already bearing fruits and will likely ripen for picking in the next couple of weeks  [Seasonal Thrill Part I].  I had "harvested" a massive amount of roses, Youtubed for recipes and concocted my debut organic rose water/syrup in my kitchen [Seasonal Thrill Part II].  Then, as if premeditated, my mum-in-law gave us heaps of cherries from her garden [Seasonal Thrill Part III].  That's a lot of thrills to last me for the whole season! I pondered for a moment.  What's a woman to do with cherries and rose water?  I could be whimsical and take a long rose water bath a la modern day Cleopatra and while at it, cue my husband to feed me cherries.  That would be the mother of all thrills for this season!  

I was pretty excited to make my organic rose syrup from rose petals for the first time.
The liquid's reddish colour comes from the petals' natural stain.  Roses harvested from our garden. 
I made too much of the water, thankfully the cherries from my mum-in-law came at the right time

As I had way too many cherries than I could possibly chew, I thought I should learn  how to preserve them and thereafter, make another round of My Blackforest Cake, cherry pie and the likes.  Besides being great ingredients for desserts, relish and even homemade jam, the cherries are also good in salads and will make nice food gifts.  I skimmed through a recipe book for ideas and with a blink of an eye, produced two jars of Cherries in Rose & Vanilla Syrup [Seasonal Thrill Part IV].  They're sitting pretty in my fridge now until I'm ready to use them for further seasonal thrills.  As for the rose water bath, it's in the works! ;)       

The essential ingredients for preserving the cherries

(makes 1 litre)

1kg cherries
750ml organic rose water (or commercial rose syrup)
1 tsp vanilla essence (or 1 vanilla bean, scraped)
1/2 cup white sugar
Strips of orange rind


1.  Add vanilla to pan with rose water, sugar and orange grind.  Stir over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and micture comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

2.  Add cherries and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes.  Transfer cherries out of the mixture into a sterilised clean jar using a slotted spoon.

3.  Boil liquid for a further 8 minutes.  Pour liquid over cherries in the jar.  Let mixture cool completely before sealing the jar.  Can be kept refrigerated.      

Fearlessly Simple & Home Cooked

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