My grandparents had an enormous backyard. It was beautiful and lush with a large vegetable garden and two statuesque apple trees near the back. Off to the side were concrete steps that paved the way to a smaller garden. That lower patch was adorned with sweet smelling flowers and two majestic cherry trees that were the focal point in that small stretch of green. They shielded us from the hot sun. Provided the perfect backdrop for family photos. The branches hung just low enough that our little hands could bend them forward to pick a few brightly colored stems. The tree trunks were thick enough that we were able to lean against them, bury our faces in our hands and count out loud for hide-and-seek.
A rainbow of pale yellow to bright red, those cherries were the perfect combination of sweet and sour. My grandmother often made cherry jam which was dense and syrupy and wonderful for slathering on thick slices of buttered toast. Other times, we’d spoon it onto vanilla ice cream after a particularly hot day and other times still, she’d make a lemon-cherry cake that was moist and buttery and so delicious, that it seldom made it past the first day. I remember running barefoot in the grass collecting fallen cherries in the hem of my skirt and eating more than I actually brought back to the kitchen. I loved their sudden burst of sour juice and the way my fingers were stained the most lovely candy-apple red.
When our sweet Raphaelia was born, we planted a cherry tree to honor the occasion but up until now, it’s only yielded a handful of cherries. This year however, we had an abundance of beautifully ripe fruit and we picked and rinsed and savored them exactly as they were. But then I remembered my grandmothers stewed cherry jam and that my mom wanted to make sour cherry liqueur. I thought of making a small batch of cherry syrup for summer cocktails or a light and airy Pavlova but in the end, we decided on simple cherry muffins. They’re wonderful for those busy school mornings and a nice little pick-me-up with your afternoon tea. I also took some over to a friend who just had a new baby as they are fairly healthy and easy to grab when you’re feeling the pangs of hunger, but have a wee little one who needs your attention. I know cherry season has come and gone, but if you’re able to get some sour cherries, make these muffins.
Happy first week of school dear friends.