Cherry Spoon Sweet

Cherry spoon sweet is a wonderful way to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. The flavor is so intense that one or two teaspoonfuls are usually enough to let you return to a diet of celery or baby carrots without feeling cheated.

The only serious drawback to this recipe is that you really need a cherry pitter. Spoon sweet is normally made with fresh sour cherries, but sweet cherries work fine too. Fresh cherries have pits in them, and the pits are virtually impossible to remove from the fruit without a pitter. You either have to buy a pitter or ask your friends if they have one they are willing to lend.
Cherries with pitterWe are fortunate to have such a friend. Rich and his wife Audrey bought a neat pitter that fits on top of a standard Mason jar. You just set the pitter on top of a pint jar, secure it with a canning ring and start pitting your cherries. The pits fall into the jar, making the operation neat and clean.

Spoon sweets probably originated in areas surrounding the eastern Mediterranean. Today they are popular in Egypt, Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and Russia. They are a variety of preserve that may be made with many different fruits and even with some vegetables and flowers. Once they have been cooked in the thick syrup, spoon sweets can be canned and stored like jellies and jams so it is possible that they were invented by people who hated to watch fresh fruits go to waste when there were more than could be consumed when they were in season.

If you are like me, you will enjoy making and sharing this lovely dessert with friends and relatives. Give it a try. If it is too sweet for you by the spoonful, garnish a dish of ice cream with some or spread it on your toast at breakfast.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. cherries
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T lemon juice

PROCEDURE:

Wash and remove the stems and pit the cherries and spread half of them in a medium-sized glass or stainless steel bowl. Sprinkle one cup of sugar over the cherries. Spread the rest of the cherries over the sugar, cover them with the second cup of sugar and gently pour a cup of cold water into the bowl. Tip the bowl to make sure that all the sugar has been moistened.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator for about twelve hours. Take the bowl from the refrigerator and stir the cherries to make sure that the sugar has mixed with the water and cherries. Stir gently to keep from crushing any cherries. Pour the cherries and juice into a three quart saucepan. Set the pan over high heat until the mixture begins to boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer the cherries for twenty-five minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that forms. Gently stir in the vanilla extract and simmer the cherries for another fifteen minutes.

Put a couple of saucers into the freezer after you stir in the vanilla. When the cherries have simmered the fifteen minutes, take one of the chilled saucers from the freezer and drip two or three drops of juice from a spoon on to the saucer. If the juice is the right consistency, after a few seconds it will barely run when you tip the saucer a little.

This resembles the test used to check if jelly is done. In this case, however, you are testing whether you have a thick syrup. If the drops are runny, continue simmering the cherries for another three minutes, then test again.

When the juice passes the drip test, stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice and simmer for two more minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and set the pan aside to cool.

After the cherries are at room temperature, pour them into a container with a good lid. A quart canning jar works fine.

Store your cherry sweet in a cool cabinet or pantry and serve it by teaspoonfuls in small dessert dishes or over ice cream or yogurt. It will keep several days without refrigeration.

NOTES: Be as careful as you can to keep from mashing the cherries. Part of the charm of this sweet is that the fruit retains its identity in the syrup.

The cherry pitter occasionally misses the pit, so you should be cautious when eating cherry sweet. I have found that it helps to position the cherry with the stem scar upwards towards the plunger.

Blenda’s Summer Cole Slaw

“Have some slaw.” I am certain that I heard my mother offer her cole slaw more than a thousand times to someone at the table. She served it with fish, chicken, pork and sandwiches. When we went on a picnic, we often had cole slaw to go with the hot dogs. Hamburgers for supper came with mustard, ketchup, fried potatoes and slaw, and when we ate bratwurst there was slaw on the table in addition to or in place of sauerkraut.

Mom’s cole slaw was a lot like Jerri’s, cabbage dressed with mayonnaise and vinegar (and sour cream in Jerri’s recipe), but there is a separate tradition of cole slaw made with vinegar and oil dressings. Some are sweet, others sour, but they all taste good to me.

A few weeks ago, I encountered an outstanding member of the vinegar and oil slaw family. We were visiting Carl, one of the ministers who married us a half century ago. He also was the husband of Jerri’s best friend at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. Carl served as president of Southwestern for several years and moved back to Winfield after his wife, Mary Lou, died.

When he bought a home near the college and remodeled it, he included a beautiful kitchen in the plans. The counters, sink, stove and oven seem to murmur, “Come on, Carl, try us out. We’ll help you make some wonderful foods.” Unfortunately, Carl thus far seems deaf to their invitations.

However, he does have a good taste in restaurants, one of which has now served us two excellent lunches. College Hill Coffee was started by Blenda Hoskinson in 2002 and now occupies a lovely bungalow near the college. As the name suggests, the restaurant offers a wide variety of coffees, espresso and other hot drinks plus cold drinks ranging from iced coffees to chocolate milk and Italian sodas.

But College Hill also makes excellent sandwiches, wraps and salads. When I ordered my sandwich, the young woman at the counter asked me which side I would like with it. As I scanned the list chalked on a slate, Summer Cole Slaw caught my attention. When I asked what it was, she said it was really good cole slaw. I am not sure, but she may have added softly that it was awesome. College Hill is that kind of college gathering place.

Trusting youth, I decided to try it. It is awesome and incidentally goes perfectly with the Grilled Cuban sandwich. As the friend of a regular and well-known customer I decided to ask for the recipe. Blenda reached for a cookbook on a shelf next to the counter, leafed through a few pages and showed me how they made that wonderful slaw. For a few seconds I feared that she was promoting a commercial cookbook until she explained that it was a recipe she included in Tried and True Recipes That Measure Up from College Hill Coffee.

When I asked how she came upon the recipe, she told me that she had begged it from a lady who brought the slaw to a potluck at the First Baptist Church in Augusta, Kansas. I tried to buy a copy of the cookbook, while Blenda tried to give it to me. Finally we compromised: I paid her what the book cost her, so I got a discount and we parted as friends. Jerri and I are both looking forward to visiting Carl and College Hill Coffee again.

If you happen to be passing through Wichita, Kansas, I suggest a side trip to Winfield, which is only forty-two miles distant. If you happen to be on your way to Tulsa or Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Winfield is actually on the way. You’ll see a vibrant college in a prosperous small city, and have a lunch to remember. And if they don’t have Blenda’s Summer Cole Slaw on the menu that day, chances are excellent that they will have an alternative that will be just as awesome.

INGREDIENTS:

2 packages cabbage cole slaw mix (from store)
2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 16 oz. package frozen peas
2 T grated onion
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar
1 T poppyseed
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cider vinegar

PROCEDURE:

Remove the dry outer layer from the onion, grate two tablespoons and put them into a large mixing bowl. Dump two packages of slaw mix, two cups of unsalted peanuts and a pound package of frozen green peas into a large mixing bowl. Mix everything together.

Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, sugar, poppy seed, mustard, salt and vinegar.

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and stir until everything is well blended.

Put the salad into the refrigerator to let the flavors meld for an hour before serving.

NOTE: I followed Blenda’s recipe exactly. After I made it, I realized that a restaurant might want a bit more slaw than a family. If you are making the slaw for a group of eight or fewer, I recommend cutting the recipe in half.