Wild Cherry Clafoutis

Having woken at the ungodly hour of 5:15 I have decided to bear with the rubbish signal and attempt a post. If I wave my phone above my head, it should just work.

We are moored on the Staffs & Worcs above Dimmingsdale Lock, just 4 hours cruising from home. It’s beautiful. All rural peacefulness and quiet. Apart from the rackety birds.

Yesterday we travelled from Woverley and had a gloriously sunny day with locks every mile or so. I was glad to have finally finished with almost all my foraged fruits as I would have struggled to fit any preserving in.

Proving that life sometimes IS a bowl of cherries, I had one last recipe to try. Wild Cherry Clafoutis. I found it in Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s first book A Cook on the Wild Side’. Verdict? I liked it, the Captain loved it, the 18 year old was unconvinced. Having eaten up we proceeded to play Tinker Tailor and discovered the following: the 18 year old is to marry a Rich Man this year wearing a dress of silk so the Captain had better take to highway robbery or something; disconcertingly, I am due to marry a Beggar Man sometime while dressed in cotton; most worryingly of all, the Captain looks set to run off in a cotton dress and marry a Soldier sometime soon. I really would not have picked him out as a GI Bride! Lots of after dinner fun. So a pudding AND a game. A veritable twofer, that’s two for the price of one. Excellent.

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Wild Cherry Clafoutis

Serves 8

500g Wild Cherries
85g Caster Sugar
125g Plain Flour
Pinch of Salt
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
300ml milk
30g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180c/gas 4.
Grease 25cm/10″ round tin/dish.
Rinse & destalk the cherries but do not stone them. Toss in 30g of sugar then spread them across the bottom of the dish.
Sift flour, salt and remaining sugar into a mixing bowl. Make a well in centre and stir in eggs. Beat in milk a little at a time till batter formed.
Pour over cherries and bake in oven for 35mins until lightly browned and puffed up like a Yorkshire pudding.
Allow to cool a little then serve lukewarm, dusted with icing sugar.

Foraging Heaven or Netherwich (Droitwich) Basin

We arrived in Netherwich Basin, situated in the centre of Droitwich, yesterday soon after lunch.

The Captain had been itching to try out the newly opened Droitwich canal since he first heard about it and was a tad narked that we could not get there for the grand opening at the weekend.  Travelling in the opposite direction were a steady stream of boaters that he recognised from his blog.  The general impression seemed to be positive.  A bit of tweaking required here and there, but basically a wonderful new addition to the waterways.

Well, all this boaty talk was all very well and I was interested to a point.  But I could only muster enthusiasm for a short while before my attention wandered to the hedgerows.  Along the new stretch, there were no hedgerows yet to speak of.  Give it time.  I fully expect them to be abundant with exciting species soon enough.  I am confident because once under the low, make that very low, M5 bridge (actually we had 3″s to spare) we joined old Droitwich Barge Canal there were many exciting things to see.  Most thrilling were the wild plum trees which seem to line this stretch.

However, these were nothing compared to the delights waiting in the Basin.  Having moored on the new pontoons we took a walk into the town for a look around.  I was armed with my foraging basket and the Captain with his camera.  I had already scouted out a Wild Cherry Tree and some more Japanese Rosehips so went prepared.

To my delight and astonishment, we discovered a mini grove of Cherry Plum Trees growing wild!  The fruit was perfectly ripe, with both yellow and red available, and they pretty much fell into my basket.

I was enraptured.  We also found a bank of ripe brambles which seems ridiculously early but to pass them by on that pretext would have been rude.

Carrying my goods back to the boat was not easy (but look how pretty they were!).

Nor was dealing with all the fruit.  But breakfasting this morning on newly baked bread, butter and very fresh wild cherry plum jam was extremely delicious.

It is also very satisfying knowing that I picked enough fruit for eight jars of yellow Cherry Plum Jam, seven jars of Red Cherry Plum Jam, two large jars of Cherry Plum Gin, I large jar of Wild Cherry Brandy and 1 medium jar of Bramble Whisky.

This evening we are moored in Worcester.  Tomorrow, we shall be back in Droitwich and I shall make a return to the Cherry Plum Trees as I have plans to make some Plum ‘beena :o)

Discovering Wild Cherries

I have lived in my current house for over twenty years. That is quite a long time. For all of that time we have had a large cherry tree overhanging our back lawn from our neighbour’s garden. Every year it is covered in blossom. Then, sure as night follows day and eggs is eggs etc., it is laden with cherries and the Captain and I have the following conversation:

Me: Ooh look, cherries!

Capt: mm? Ah yes. You can’t eat them.

Me: Really? Are you sure?

Capt: Oh yes, they are inedible. Definitely not for eating.

Me: But the birds like them?

Capt: Yes, well, we’re not birds, are we. They are sour. You wouldn’t like them. Leave them for the birds.

Me: Shame.

It is not like me to be so compliant. But I know nothing about gardens. Actually, that is not true. I do know something now. I know that the Captain was not exactly truthful in his presentation of the facts. Not the bit about not being birds. Neither he nor I have any feathers growing anywhere and we are not keen on little bells, mirrors or worms. He was right about that. However, I have discovered that the cherry-tree-in-the-garden-bearing-loads-of-inedible-fruit-for-twenty-years is, in fact, a Wild Cherry tree that I can do a lot with. A. Lot. To say I am excited is an understatement. But then, as has been noted before, I don’t get out much.

Unfortunately, the tree actually belongs to my neighbour, and while he is very happy for me to clamber over his garden picking his totally inedible cherries from the utterly useless cherry tree, he probably draws the line to some severe pruning to enable me to reach the higher branches in future years. Consequently, most of the fruit still ends up benefiting the avian population more than me. This is possibly not a bad thing because I have been a bit busy making jam pot covers and labels for my jars. And I seem to have another infection in my face so I am a tad under the weather again which is a huge irritation. So gathering just enough for a batch of Cherry Ratafia was probably just as well.

I posted a different recipe in the comments on Amy’s blog the other day when she wrote asking for ideas in her Sweet as Cherry Pie post. I opted to try this one as I had some vanilla sugar in my cupboard. It’s going to be a long time waiting to try it!

Wild Cherry Ratafia

500g wild cherries, pricked

500ml brandy

2 cinnamon sticks

300g vanilla sugar

Put the cherries in a large clean jar or bottle. Pour over the sugar, followed by the cinnamon and brandy. Secure lid and give a good shake to mix up the contents. Shake daily for the next week to prevent the sugar settling on the bottom. Then shake once a week for 8 – 10 weeks. Strain through a fine sieve and bottle. Leave for at least 6 months and preferably 18 months before drinking.