#332 Cherry, Plum or Damson Sauce

This is a piquant and rich sauce that is traditionally served with game, venison and tongue that seems very Victorian and English to me – there are many others like it such as Cumberland and venison sauce that came most likely from Germany via the kings (and a queen) of the House of Hanover (Georges I to IV, William IV and Victoria). We don’t really eat much of these sorts of sauces anymore, and we shall see if we should bring them back.
This recipe makes good use of seasonal European fruits: the morello or amarelle cherry (or sour cherry), plums and damsons.
Morello and amarelle cherry trees (Prunus cerasus)are easy to cultivate, and yet it is getting increasingly difficult to find fresh British ones sold at markets, though you can find them frozen or canned pretty easily. The English cherry orchard is a feature of the country declining greatly, mainly because of the competition from cheap imported ones from the Middle East and places like that. The morello cherry was introduced in Britain by the Romans around 50AD and were very popular in Tudor times. Will the English cherry ever return? Because they are so easy to grow and take up little space I shall grow some upon my return to Britain (once I have a garden of course!).

Plums, like the cherry, are of Genus Prunus and there are around 20 species used in several different ways, the species used in Britain is P domestica which is actually a hybrid of two other species. P domestica has been bred into several varieties including my favourite, the greengage.

P domesticus also produced the damson, our third fruit for this recipe. Damsons to me are the most English of all three, though I have never tried them before. I shall have to rectify that.

Here is how to make the sauce, whichever Prunus you lay your hands on.

Stone 8 ounces of morello or amarelle cherries, plums or damsons. You can use canned cherries if you want, just make sure they are in water, not syrup. This is what I used. Put the fruit in a saucepan along with ¼ pint each of red wine and port, a tablespoon of sugar, 2 cloves and an inch-long piece of cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer for around 10 minutes until the fruit is nice and tender. If you want, you can sieve the damsons or plums if using, but I think it’s better to leave whole. Now add 2 good tablespoons of redcurrant jelly and the juice of 3 oranges and a lemon. Season with black pepper and, off the heat, stir in an ounce of butter. Taste and add more sugar if needed.

I made cherry sauce and served it with hot tongue.
#332 Cherry, Plum or Damson Sauce. I loved this sauce much more than Cumberland sauce. The rich wines and fruit were only just off-set with the sugar, fruit and spice. Very delicious, you could almost eat it on its own. We should certainly bring it back! 8.5/10.

#221 Cherry Tarts

At the end of the summer, I bought a whole crate of cherries for just a few pounds toward the end of the season. Dutifully I stoned them all and froze them and then promptly forgot I ever had them. That was until I looked in the freezer and discovered them again, and since I am trying to use up everything in there, I thought I would make good use of them as a dessert.

Cherry season is pretty much a non-event in Britain these days, unless you live in cherry country – Kent. Almost all the cherries sold in markets and supermarkets are imported and finding home-grown cherries is nigh-on impossible. I certainly could find any here in Manchester.

Cherries have been enjoyed since the times of Ancient Greece, where they were considered only really worth eating raw, where they served as diuretic. In fact there is a detox diet that requires the poor dieter to put away a kilo of cherries a day; I like cherries, but not that much. Cherries did not become popular during – and therefore were only cultivated from – the Middle Ages. It was then that the cherry harvest became a part of European festival and a symbol of all that is good in summertime. Luckily in the day of the domestic deep freeze, we can save our cherries and enjoy them whenever we like, though they best eaten or cooked fresh really.

Anyways, that’s enough schpiel! Try these dainty little cherry tarts – they are essentially mini-clafoutis with a pastry base.

Start by making some sweet shortcrust pastry by rubbing three ounces of flour into five ounces of plain flour and two tablespoons of icing sugar. Bring the dough together with a large egg yolk and a tablespoon of lemon juice. If it is still a little dry, then add some cold water or milk. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, stone around a pound and a half cherries. Roll out the pastry thinly – as sweet pastry is very soft, it is worth rolling it out on some cling film of greaseproof paper – cut out 18 circles to line some small tart tins. Place a closely-packed layer of cherries in each little tart and then make the sweetened custard filling: whisk together a quarter of a pint of double cream, two eggs and three ounces of caster sugar. Pour a scant tablespoon of each of the cherry tarts and then bake for 15-20 minutes at 230⁰C until the custard browns and is set. Eat hot or warm.

#221 Cherry Tarts. A good and simple dessert to make, though the frozen cherries were perhaps not as good as fresh ones. Maybe the best to use would be morellos. Mine were a little insipid. That said you can’t go far wrong with the sweet pastry and custard elements to this pud. I’m sure you could use any fruit. I bet some lightly-stewed rhubarb pieces would be delicious. 5.5/10, though with good cherries, it would have been at least an 8/10, I reckon.