The flavor of tart cherries, fresh in Kentucky in early June, in pies and soups - that's probably one of my all time favorite tastes. I wrote a loooong post about cherries during their season in 2006. Read the cherry post.
Here's the Cherry Soup story and recipe from that post.
I grew up with sour cherry trees and sour cherry pies. Sour cherries (sometimes called "pie cherries" or "tart cherries") are my favorite fruit for fruit desserts like tarts, crisps, and pies. Cherries' mysterious almond-spice-sour-sweet flavors intrigue and satisfy me.
In 2003, our son Noah married his love Alison on June 14. We had a happy house full of company, and I found sour cherries at the Farmers Market -- a treasure! (I think any Kentucky market should overflow with these spectacular fruits each June, but instead, cherries are rare.)
My mother-in-law, Eloise Kay, and her sister, Thelma Waldman, told me their mother made a cold soup from sour cherries. I found recipes easily, and bravely tried this idea, which was brand new to me. I had no real idea what I was trying to duplicate, but Eloise and Thelma were kind enough to pronounce the results "really close" to their mother's soup. Everyone else simply slurped it up. Now I make sour cherry soup each time I find the fruit. The ingredients are so simple it is hard to believe how complex and refreshing the soup tastes.
1. Wash and pit a quart of sour cherries. Pit them over a strainer or colander that is set in a bowl so you catch all the extra juice.
2. Feel your way through the pitted cherries, looking for the stray tooth-breaking pits ("stones") that always seem to find their way into the finished product. Remove anything you feel that is not soft cherry.
3. Put the pitted cherries and juice in a medium stainless steel saucepan.
4. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.
5. Optional: Add a 1-inch piece of fresh stick cinnamon. (Try this and see if you like the taste. Most cherry soup recipes call for cinnamon. I like it only if the eventual taste is subtle.)
6. Add water to the pan to a level just below the top of the cherries.
7. Bring the cherries to a low boil and cook over low-medium heat for 15 minutes, until they are quite soft.
8. Let the cherries cool.
9. If you used the cinnamon stick, remove and discard it now.
10. Put the cooked cherries and juice into a blender. Add 1/3 cup white sugar. (Organic sugar is particularly sweet and delicious in this recipe.)
11. Blend for a minute or until ultra-smooth.
12. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. The need for sugar will vary with cherry type and ripeness, as well as with individual preferences. (The chilled soup will taste slightly less sweet than the room temperature version, so add a couple of tablespoons of sugar is the taste is on the edge of too tart.)
13. Chill thoroughly.
14. Serve in cold bowls.
15. Garnish with a tiny dollop of sour cream and a spring of Kentucky mint as garnish. (Or paint with the sour cream on the soup's surface, using a tooth pick to "draw" the initial dollop of sour cream into shapes.