It’s cherry time in Vignola! Every June this cute little town with the beautiful castle is all about the sticky, sweet, and staining delicious fruit that is a cherry: cherry and jazz festival, cherry stands by the road anywhere close to Vignola, cherries in the supermarkets, cherry desserts, cherry stands downtown…. Who knew that among Italian cherries, those from Vignola are the famous ones?! Before moving to Italy I had no idea.
Today we toured different cherry orchards, climbed on some cherry trees, and I learned about the different types of cherries. Or I tried. I was told about duroni (the bigger, redder variety). And about cigliege (the darker, sweeter ones). And also amarene (much more sour… until put in sticky sweet syrup). And so many more names and varieties that I really can’t remember. It’s crazy. Growing up I always thought there were cherries… and that’s it. Luckily, you can just keep trying the different kinds and then walk home with containers full of your favorites. Touring the orchard I was stunned by not only how many types of cherries there were, but how many cherries were on every single branch of the cherry trees and how many big cherries even the very young trees produced. Impressive! If you ever get a chance to tour a cherry orchard, take it. So worth it! And there are so many different kind of orchards too. The old ones where they have the huge trees – where you can reach the cherries only by ladder. The young ones where you have hundreds of trees in neat lines and each tree isn’t taller than maybe two meters. The modern ones that have big plastic covers over all the trees protecting them from the rain and cannons that can somehow send the thunderstorm to the next town. Incredible!
Now that we’re home with about 4 kg of the best Italian cherries the question becomes…. what do we do with all the cherries? I got some tips from our friends. The ones who showed us around and helped us pick the best cherries. So, who am I to question their advice? 🙂
- Cherries are great without adding anything: Keep a container on the counter and grab some every time you walk by.
- Cherries in alcohol: This is where you want to use the big and sweet and dark ones. Cut the stems at the bottom; don’t tear the stems off as that lets too much alcohol enter the cherry and makes them too mushy. Put some sugar in a glass container, add your cherries, and fill the container with Etilfrutta (or white rum) until the cherries are covered. Now, put the container out of sight and mind and bring it back out a year or two later. Voila, cherries in alcohol. Delicious!
- Cherry cake: Take your favorite fruit cake (or tart or muffin) recipe and go. Just make sure you take the pits out first. I was told that heating them up in the pan a little until they’re nice and soft before adding them to the dough makes the cake better. I’m partial to the sponge type with big puddles of cherry and sliced almonds on top.
- Cherry jam: I’m not a jam person, but I’m sure Google can help with a good recipe.
I’m off to getting some more cherry stains on my fingers now. Enjoy the pics!
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