July is here. I can feel it in the cool Pacific Northwest air that is slowly being pushed away by sun-filled breaks in the clouds. The days are growing longer, with every day stretching its last hours just a little bit further with invitations to lie in the hammock and watch the moon rise. Summer flowers are just beginning to dot our garden with their bright blooms, our strawberries are growing larger by the minute, and, best of all, I can see our neighborhood’s Montmorency cherry trees sagging with the weight of their ripening fruit.
Montmorency cherries are the most popular type of sour cherry tree found in North America, and for good reason. The trees are amenable to all types of climates, and they produce a staggering amount of fruit. Though the amount of time the fruit is available is woefully short (the window of opportunity for harvesting these cherries seems to disappear within a matter of only two weeks or so), I can’t think of another type of fruit that is so worth the inevitable wait, followed by a flurry of hard, sticky work.
There are three sour cherry trees on our street alone, and every year, after watching their owners drag out their ladders and fill bucket after bucket of cherries, we are never surprised when the trees’ remaining bounty is eventually offered up for free to passersby. I am exceedingly spoiled by this annual occurrence, and I have yet to turn down any offer of sour cherries, no matter what amount of work is required of me in order to get them. One year, my husband’s parents were out of town when their sour cherry tree was positively singing with heavy, ripe fruit. Tasked with the duty of harvesting the tree’s cherries, we spent nearly an entire day picking cherries, pitting cherries, and then separating the cherries into pie-filling-sized portions. One large cherry pie requires roughly six cups of filling. By the end of the day, we had picked enough cherries to make twelve pies. Sound impressive? Consider this: after I portioned out and then froze all those cherries, the entire haul only lasted me six months. Now I don’t sound impressive so much as I sound insane.
Last year, I vowed to make our sour cherry ration last longer. By reserving the cherries solely for special occasions, I have managed to stretch our batch of frozen cherries to last us an entire year. A couple of days ago, with only three cups of cherries left, I decided to finally retire the last of the lot. As fortune would have it, the last bag of frozen cherries was stored right next to a small bag of frozen ginger, a chance happening that I took as a point of inspiration.
Summer has been a long time coming this year, but we certainly haven’t forgotten about it. If nothing else, like Proust and the madeleine, we still have a few sour cherries to stir up some much needed memories of warmer days.
Sour Cherry and Ginger Galette
This method of grating butter into dry ingredients to make a flaky dough is nearly foolproof. Grating the butter while frozen makes it almost impossible to overwork and toughen the dough while incorporating the butter, and, when you add your ice water to moisten the ingredients, you’ll find that things adhere together nicely without ever becoming gummy.
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons butter (¾ of a stick), frozen as a stick and NOT cubed or sliced
3-4 tablespoons ice water
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the frozen butter over the flour mixture, covering as much of the surface of the flour as possible (meaning, try not to let the butter pile up too high in one place). Using your hands, quickly toss the butter and flour together to distribute the butter through out the bowl. 1 tablespoon at a time, add 3 tablespoons of ice water while gently turning and mixing the dough with your hands. If the dough is not coming together, add the last tablespoon while continuing to mix the dough. When the dough forms a rough ball, turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Tightly wrap the dough with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Sour Cherry Filling
I very much enjoy the tartness of sour cherries, so I have made this filling with a scant amount of sugar. If you are opposed to a dessert that has a hit of sourness to counter its sweetness, feel free to add another 2 tablespoons or so of sugar to sweeten things up.
3 cups pitted sour cherries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
When you are ready to assemble your filling ingredients, remove pie crust from refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature to warm up just ever so slightly.
In a large bowl, combine and stir together the cherries, sugar, and cornstarch. Allow to sit for 15 minutes so the cherries macerate a bit in the sugar. Add the fresh ginger and the pinch of salt, then stir to combine.
Unwrap the galette dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a 12-inch round. Place the round on a parchment lined baking sheet. Scoop the cherries onto the center of the rolled out dough, leaving at least 1 inch of the outermost edge exposed. Rotating the galette, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself, crimping it shut at regular intervals. Brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg white.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the edges of the dough have turned a rich golden color and the cherry filling is bubbling and thick.
Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before eating.