By Leah Koenig
My father and I don't have too many levels on which we can relate. He came of age in the 1930s, experiencing the harrowing lessons of the Great Depression; I grew up in the 1990s, feeling entitled to the whole world. He refuses to learn how to use email; I practically live online.
But on a recent visit home to Chicago, when I set a bowl of red cherries between us for a snack, his eyes lit up. "I can't remember the last time I had fresh cherries," he said. "What a treat."
He mused for a bit, remembering when, as a young boy living in Rochester, New York, he and his father would pick cherries from neighborhood trees. The same way I remember him taking my brother and me on boysenberry picking missions in the alleys of suburban Chicago some six decades later.
The world was different back when my dad was a kid — simpler and slower in a way I can't begin to imagine. But in that moment, with that bowl of sweet stone fruits between us, sitting together in the first decades of the 21st century while looking back to the first decades of the 20th, I felt connected to him.
Like my dad, my favorite way to eat cherries is fresh out of hand, ejecting the pebbly pits into a bowl like tobacco into a spittoon. But the miniature drupes, which come in both sweet and sour varieties that are at their peak in early to mid summer, are also delicious baked into pies, crumbles, and cakes, or providing a splash of sweet-tart flavor to meat and rice dishes.
Cherries are also the base of several fantastic cocktail ingredients from maraschino syrup to kirsch.
Typically flambéed tableside and served over ice cream, jubilee is a timeless, classic dessert.
Preservative-free maraschino-style cherries are perfect for cocktails or pouring over ice cream.
Black Forest Cake
An iconic German masterpiece of cherry brandy-soaked pastry engineering.
Hungarian Sour Cherry Cake
Sour cherries dot the top of this simple breakfast cake.
Baked custard studded with juicy black cherries is an irresistible French classic.
Cherry Almond Star Cookies
A red candied cherry crowns the center of kirsch and almond-flavored Italian cookies.
Sour Cherry Pie
Sweetened with sugar and almond extract, sour cherries make a delicious summer pie filling.
Blueberry Cherry Cobbler
Two of summer's tastiest fruits combine in a biscuit-topped cobbler.
Red Cherry Granita
Cool things down with a scoop of cherry flavored granita.
This traditional Roman Jewish bar cookie is studded with nuts and chopped candied cherries.
Hungarian Chilled Cherry Soup
Begin your next summer dinner with a rich and flavorful cold cherry soup.
Rack of Venison with Sour Cherry Port Sauce
Cherries' sweet-tart flavor pairs perfectly with roasted venison.
Wild Rice Salad with Dried Sour Cherries
Add flavor to a basic wild rice salad by tossing in chopped dried sour cherries.
Duck with Cherries
Roasted duck is topped with a sauce of dried and fresh cherries cooked in red wine.
Enliven a basic cornbread stuffing with fresh sage and dried cherries.
Cherries taste even better after a long soak in brandy.
La La Lola
This artisanal take on cherry cola uses a full pint of cherries per three cups of cola.
Cherry liqueur adds sweetness and a rosy hue to this classic drink.
Black Forest Manhattan
Sour cherry juice, kirsch, and chocolate bitters combine to make a cocktail worthy of its namesake German cake.
Leah Koenig is a freelance writer and author of The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen.