The slender tree branches, laden with luscious, dark sour cherries, seemed in dire need of relieving their seasonal burden. As always, it’s on a first come first serve basis: us or the birds.
As I walked through my friend’s delightful garden teeming full of berry bushes and fruit trees (each with a long history and proclamation to the land which their roots sink deep into), I couldn’t help but begin to recount all of the times my friends and I would use the garden as our own playground when we were little. We would pluck fruits from the trees in such earnest that our hands would be stained, the lower parts of our shirts became makeshift baskets, our conversations became limited as we kept our mouths full of our succulent findings, and our greediness was shown outright as we left with full bellies and more fruit than we could carry.
Of course, we shared what we brought home. That always meant baked goods and treats – for what seemed like an endless amount of time – featuring our incredible bounty.
And here again, those same feelings of anticipation and excitement came flooding all over me. Gazing toward the cherry trees, I couldn’t wait to fill my bag, albeit with a little more restraint that comes from being older and a bit more wiser. And let’s be honest, pitting cherries by hand is only fun the first few times. After that, its just a lot of work – so take only what you need.
I spent the weekend pitting with my hands and making all sorts of cherry concoctions. I should probably invest in a cherry pitter one day but I actually found the whole process quite therapeutic. From compotes and pickled cherries to farmhouse tarts and meatballs, sour cherries were reigning high. A little sugar here or a little vinegar there and these cherries went from tart on the tongue to absolutely divine.
One of the recipes I always have to make is cherry crisp (or smuldrepai in Norwegian). I usually go with the tried and true topping of oats and flour, but this time I wanted to try making it with a nod to knekkebrød (crisp breads) – lots of seeds and nuts and texture. A little more heartiness to match up against those delicious cherries. It turned out beautifully, if I say so myself. I’ll be honest, I forgot to add in the cornstarch with the cherries before baking. It still turned out amazing, albeit a little runny. So, if you prefer a thicker crisp, don’t forget to toss in the starch. You can also use other nuts and seeds of your liking, but I found this to be a really yummy combination. Serve it warm with freshly whipped cream and/or ice cream.
Sour Cherry Crisp with Almonds and Seeds (smuldrepai med kirsebær)
Serves 6 to 8
For the cherry base:
- 2 lbs (900 g) sour cherries, pitted
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
For the topping:
- ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (66 g) rolled oats
- 2/3 cup (130 g) dark brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons (84 g) butter
- 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon linseeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C.
In a large bowl, combine the pitted cherries with the sugar and cornstarch. Place into a greased 9-inch pie dish or individual ramekins.
In a separate large bowl, add in the flour, oats, and brown sugar. Cut in the butter (I prefer using my hands for an even blend and crumb consistency, but you can use a fork or pastry cutter). Fold in the rest of the ingredients until well blended and spread evenly on top of the cherry mixture.
Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30-35 minutes, until bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top.
Let sit for a couple of minutes, then serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
For another berry inspiration, check out these Savory Berry Tartlets.