While most people prefer sweet red Bing cherries or blush Rainiers in summer, it is my firm opinion that the real treasure is the sour cherry. Like much in life that is desirable, sour cherries are hard to come by, hard to keep and worth seeking out.
Get recipes for Sour Cherry-Mascarpone Pound Cake, Sour Cherry Gelato With Bittersweet Chocolate-Cherry Sauce, and Fresh Sour Cherry Pie (below).
Unlike their more common sweet cousins, sour cherries, also known as tart cherries or pie cherries, are a little too pucker-inducing for most people to enjoy eating raw (though I personally adore them). Their season is brief — a few short weeks at the end of June and beginning of July — and the fruit itself is highly perishable. But if you can get your hands on them, they make excellent pies and preserves and pair well with anything from vanilla ice cream to roast duck.
My first encounter with sour cherries was many years ago in Italy and involved lots of liquor. (I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't like that.) My Abruzzese grandmother, Maria Tomassoni, used to set sour cherries out to dry in the sun and then preserve them in large glass jars in alcohol-laden syrup. Over the months, the syrup would thicken and the cherries and syrup both would darken to a deep, chocolaty red. We stirred the syrup into soda and ate the cherries by the spoonful. They were considered a remedy for "girl trouble," and my sister and I milked that for all we could. After my grandmother died in the 1970s, my mother and aunts began restricting our access to the remaining jars of cherries, and we didn't mind. We all knew how precious they were, and together we made the final jar last as long as we could.> >