We’ve all been there before: you couldn’t resist all that amazing seasonal produce at the grocery store or the farmers market. Now you’ve cooked all your meals for the week, and some of the fruits and veggies are still kicking around. You don’t want to make more food to eat now, but you’d hate to waste all those pristine ingredients. Well, never fear: your trusty Formaggio Kitchen staffers are here to relate some of our favorite ways to utilize excess produce. And, who knows, you may like the ideas so much you won’t want to wait until you have leftovers. Stop by the produce department on your next visit and see what inspires you.
So there I was on Saturday afternoon with about a pound and a half of sour cherries. On Friday, my landlord informed me that the tree next to our front steps was a sour cherry tree and offered to let me pick as many as I’d like. I took him up on the offer and went a little bit overboard. I’d already pitted two pounds of cherries and they were now encased in pie crust and baking away in the oven, thanks to the efforts of my lovely wife. What to do with the rest of the cherries? They weren’t enough for a second pie and, even if they were, they’d probably go bad before the first was finished. I could have made a couple of jars of jam, but I wasn’t in the mood to simmer some jam for hours on a hot day.
At that moment, I realized I had company coming over the next day and I’d need to offer them refreshment. And just like that, I knew what to do with the cherries: sour cherry simple syrup. A simple syrup would be a perfect way to save the cherries for a longer period of time, as the sugar preserves the fruit flavor long after the fruit would otherwise rot. Additionally, a cherry simple syrup is a great accent for many different drinks and would give me tons of options to serve my guests.
Simple syrups are a class of liquids composed of sugar dissolved in water. The most traditional form of simple syrup is merely a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. People have long since moved beyond this versatile, yet simple (pun intended!) form of simple syrup and, nowadays, you may encounter more interesting varieties at a nice bar (check out those squeeze bottles next to the garnishes) or even just a local coffee shop (that demerara syrup on the counter next to the half-and-half is just a relatively unrefined variety of sugar dissolved into water). Most fresh produce can be made into delicious simple syrups. Fruit works particularly well, but plenty of vegetables are also delicious in this form. The key is converting the produce into a physical form that, when simmered in sugar water, will allow its flavor to be extracted into the syrup. With sour cherries, merely pitting them will suffice as the puncture created when the pit is extracted allows the sugar to penetrate the fruit. Additionally, sour cherries contain enough water that none need be added, so the only ingredients you need are cherries and sugar.
Sour Cherry Simple Syrup
1 Quart of Sour Cherries, Pitted
1 Cup of Sugar
Combine sugar and pitted cherries in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out liquid using a fine-mesh strainer. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze for up to several months.
(Bonus: Once you’ve pushed the liquids through a fine mesh strainer, the leftover “spent” fruit makes a perfectly delicious mini-batch of preserves to put on toast. Throw them in a jar, grab a loaf of your favorite bread, and you’ve got breakfast or a snack for a week.)
Sour Cherry Vodka Lemonade
.75oz Cherry Simple Syrup
.75oz Lemon Juice
Optional (I love carbonation, your mileage may vary): 3oz Seltzer
Combine all ingredients and serve over ice.
Sour Cherry Gin Collins
.75oz Cherry Simple Syrup
.75oz Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, or a combination of the two
Splash of Soda Water
Combine the first three ingredients and pour over ice. Top with a splash of soda.
Jesse Galdston wears many hats at Formaggio Kitchen. You can find him behind the cheese counter, coordinating deliveries, or concocting new drink recipes.