If you read my last post, you may have thought to yourself "that girl has a great looking garden, but she sounds tiiiirrrreeeedddd." You wouldn't be too far off the mark. I was tired last week, and a fair bit cranky too, but I'll spare you the gory details. My holidays could not have come at a better time. I hopped into my car last Saturday, cranked up the music (I always play Lucinda Williams when I go on a road trip!), drove a little too fast (I love driving fast!) and saw some of my favourite people in the whole wide world.
The first stop was visiting one of my oldest and funniest friends, Mel. We had a high school reunion to go to, and while that turned out to be kinda Lame, with a capital L, Mel and I had a blast looking through our year books. My God. Could glasses get any bigger in 1991? And that hair. So high! I loved re-reading all of the messages my friends wrote back then, and I love that I still see and talk to most them today. (And I love that I use a lot less hair spray now!) Laughing with someone I've known for over 20 years, was just what I needed.
Next stop was visiting some of my favourite Aunties - including the lovely Auntie Kay who gave me this cast iron skillet a few months back and I've been using it non stop ever since. We chatted over tea and sweets and swapped recipes and stories. I was given packages of their awesome, awesome fruitcake, and jars of pickled beets. Too bad the sauerkraut wasn't ready yet, otherwise some of that would have (hopefully!) come along with me too! They shred the cabbage by hand and use an old, old crock to make incredible kraut. From there my car wheels hit gravel roads and I popped in on awesome cousin Angela, eating delicious offerings from her massive garden. The absolutely gorgeous simplicity of a toasted tomato sandwich is never lost on me - especially when the tomato was picked that morning. Chocolate zucchini cake on a warm summer afternoon was the perfect accompaniment for us to dish the details on whatever it is we've been up too - babies and blogs and boys!
Still on gravel roads, still in love with the blue blue sky and soft golden glow of the prairie, I venture towards another cousin's farm. You may remember I went here in June and we cooked and ate all weekend. This time was no exception! 14 of us packed the dining room and we ate chicken cordon bleu and garlic mashed potatoes and fresh tomato salad with basil. For dessert, the coolest little cousins made delicious double chocolate cupcakes and painstakingly stuffed preserved sour cherries into each one. Finally! I get to the part about the cherries!
It's not every day you seen an orchard in Saskatchewan, but yes you can grow wonderful fruit here, and only 15 minutes from Brian and Leanne's farm in the Luseland, Sask area, Kim McKenzie is doing just that. She owns Symmetree Orchard, a family-run U-pick, offering Saskatoon berries, the Romance Series of University of Saskatchewan developed Dwarf Sour Cherries and over 20 variety of Prairie Apples. I had never picked sour cherries before; heck I didn't even know they grew around here! Such easy picking - they were hanging like grapes, and barely any stems or leaves came with them. We picked 3 gallon pails full in under an hour (well Leanne picked 2, I picked 1, being the slower, city girl picker!) and the grand total was only $24 for all 3. Deal of the day! The 'Romeo' variety we picked was still tart, but had a lovely sweetness too. It made for a perfect snack as I wound my way along the back roads home.
Back in the city, but still on holidays (hooooray!) there was no doubt in my mind I had to make something with the sour cherries immediately. Even after giving my mom 1 gallon pail, that still leaves me with plenty of Romeo! It's cobbler season now, being officially into September, and a quick Epicurious search turned up what I was looking for. And I could even make it in my cast iron skillet! Pitting 4 cups of cherries was crazy messy with juice flying everywhere, but that's what bleach is for. The sour cherries are cooked on the stove top with a little lemon and almond extract and sugar. The biscuit topping is super easy to make, though I like a little more of a biscuit to fruit ratio myself, so next time I would amp up the buttery topping. No biggie though. Once you get a spoonful of sour cherries and buttery cobbler topping, it is pure joy. The cherries are almost jam-like, cooked down in a sweet syrup, yet still pleasingly tart. In my haste to gobble, I never whipped any cream to accompany it (and really, I don't need whipped cream every day of my life), but that would be really, really good.
Like summer, my holidays are sadly coming to an end, and while I still have 400 million Romeo cherries to pit, their presence in my freezer in the deep dark depths of winter will be a reminder of gravel roads and blue blue sky and the soft golden glow of the Prairie that I love so much. And how just taking a drive, away for awhile, can somehow make everything better.
Sour Cherry Cobbler
4 cups sour cherries, washed, picked over and pitted
2 tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
Combine cherries, cornstarch, 2/3 cup sugar, lemon juice and zest, and almond extract in a bowl. Stir well and set aside. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients, cutting in the butter until crumbly. Stir in 1/4 cup boiling water and stir until a soft dough forms. In a cast iron skillet, or other oven proof pan, heat the cherry mixture until it boils. Turn off heat. Drop the biscuit mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the cherries. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if you like. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until golden. Serves 4. Adapted from Epicurious.