The cherries in the CSA share today are a vibrant treat. These made a wonderfully rich dinner last year when we first received them. I learned about the sour/sweet cherries and gathered recipes from Sherrie Banikarim at Shiraz Vineyards. It is an early crop cherry that the farm froze whole in June. The cherry is called Albalou and is used in traditional Persian dishes that Sherrie shares with us below. She also provides jam and syrup recipes.
If you want to eat the most amazing chicken and rice dish with cherries, scroll down to the last recipe. I made this last February and it changed the way that I saw cherries. These became an integral part of the dinner. It took a little longer to make than plain chicken and rice, but was very worth it. You can make a smaller version of the recipe to include more cherries. Enjoy!
- Pit the cherries by hand. They are a smaller fruit and may not work as well with a cherry pitter tool. Pit them over a bowl and save the juice! This will create a lovely syrup
- Most of the recipes boil the cherries in sugar for a short time to maintain the shape and deep magenta color
Sour-Cherry Preserves (Moraba-ye Albalou)
From Shiraz Vineyards
2 pounds pitted sour cherries (pitted weight)
4 cups sugar
1. Wash cherries and remove stems and pits. Place cherries and sugar in large pot and macerate them overnight.
2. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 35 minutes over low heat, gently stirring occasionally until the syrup has thickened. Remove foam as it forms with a skimmer. Remove from heat and let cool. If the syrup is still too thin at the end of the cooking time, remove the cherries and simmer the syrup for a few minutes longer.
3. Sterilize jelly jars in boiling water and dry thoroughly with a clean towel. Fill with preserves and seal.
Sour-Cherry Syrup (Sharbat-e Albalou)
From Shiraz Vineyards
3 cups fresh or frozen pitted sour cherries or canned ones with their juice
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Squeeze or process the cherries in a juicer.
2. Bring the cherry juice, sugar and water to boil in a saucepan. Simmer for 25 minutes over low heat until the syrup thickens.
3. Remove pan from heat. Add vanilla and allow to cool.
4. Pour syrup into a clean, dry bottle. Cork tightly.
5. In a pitcher, mix 1/4 syrup, 3/4 water and 2 ice cubes per person. Stir with a spoon. Serve well chilled.
Variation: Another way to make this syrup is to bring the sugar and water to a boil, add the sour cherries and boil for 25 minutes. Remove cherries with a skimmer and add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract to the syrup. Let cool, pour syrup into a clean, dry bottle and cork tightly.
Rice with Sour Cherries (Albalou Polo)
From Shiraz Vineyards
3 cups long grain rice
10 cups fresh or frozen sour cherries, cleaned, washed and pitted or 4 cans, 1 pound each, red tart pitted cherries packed in water.
4 cups sugar
1 chicken, about 3 pounds cut up
2 large onions, 1 finely chopped, 1 grated
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 pound ground meat (lamb, veal or beef)
1- 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon slivered almonds
1 tablespoons slivered pistachios
2 tablespoons hot melted butter
2 tablespoons cherry syrup
1. Clean and wash 3 cups of rice 5 times in cold water. It is then desireable but not essential to soak the rice in 8 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of salt for at least 2 hours.
2. Place washed and pitted cherries and sugar in a saucepan. Cook for 35 minutes over medium heat. Set aside and cool. Separate the cherries and reserve the syrup.
3. In a saucepan, cook the chicken with a finely chopped onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Do not add water; the chicken will produce its own juice. Cover and simmer 45 minutes over low heat. Bone the chicken and cut it into pieces. Add a drop of dissolved saffron. Set aside.
4. In a bowl, combine the ground meat and one peeled, grated onion. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Knead well and form into tiny balls the size of a hazelnut. Brown in a skillet in oil. Set aside.
5. Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6 minutes, stirring gently twice to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Drain rice in a colander and rinse in lukewarm water.
6. In the same pot, heat half the butter, a drop of dissolved saffron and yogurt.
7. Place 2 spatulas full of rice in pot, then spatula of cherries. Place the pieces of chicken and meatballs on top. (Set aside 1 large spoonful of cherries, a few pieces of chicken and several meatballs for garnish).
8. Repeat these steps, arranging the rice in the shape of a pyramid. Pour the remaining butter and saffron and 2 tablespoons of chicken juice over the pyramid.
9. Place a clean dish towel over the pot and cover firmly with lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat and 50 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes on a damp surface without opening.
10. Remove lid and take 2 tablespoons of saffron-flavored rice and set aside with cherries, chicken pieces and meatballs that were reserved for garnishing.
11. Gently taking one skimmer or spatula full of rice at a time, place it in an oval serving platter without disturbing the crust. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Garnish with saffron-flavored rice, chicken pieces, meatballs, almonds and pistachio nuts. Pour 1/2 cup hot cherry syrup over rice.
12. Detach the bottom layer using a wooden spatula. Unmold into a small platter and serve on the side.
Variation: Two 1-lb jars of good sour cherry preserves, with whole cherries, may be used instead of step 2. Specialty food stores often carry high-quality imported brands. Frozen sour cherries may also be used, and are available at Middle Eastern food specialty shops.