Seven-year-old Dana Litzenberger checks out some fresh Okanagan cherries while the Calgary resident visits family in Vernon for the summer.

Seven-year-old Dana Litzenberger checks out some fresh Okanagan cherries while the Calgary resident visits family in Vernon for the summer.

Okanagan cherries a healthy choice

Cherry recipes sweeten your palate and also provide some health benefits.

Are cherries the new wonder fruit?

Well, let’s take a look at a few facts about this delicious fruit. Did you know that the finest cherries in the world are grown in the  B.C. Interior?

Among other qualities, our cherries have the highest brix (or sugar content) on the planet. Many of the old “wives tales” about the healing powers of cherries have proven to be true.

Cherries, especially tart varieties, contain significant amounts of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep,  anthocyanin, and other powerful antioxidants with great  anti-inflammatory properties which are significant and beneficial for the immune system.

This fruit has proven to soothe gout, drastically lower inflammation in the body, in fact, enough to actually alleviate arthritis symptoms and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

As well, cherries are an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, low in fat, and are cholesterol free.

The cherry season is upon us. Let’s enjoy this versatile fruit.


Cherry Chutney

1 pound cherries, pitted

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 large onion, chopped

1 Granny Smith apple – peeled, cored and chopped

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place the cherries, cider vinegar, rice vinegar, onion, apple, white sugar, brown sugar, ginger, five-spice powder, salt, and nutmeg into a large pot.

Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid, and continue simmering until the desired consistency has been reached. Chill before serving.


Classic Cherries Jubilee

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup orange juice

1 pound Bing or other dark, sweet cherries, rinsed and pitted (or use frozen pitted cherries)

1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon cherry extract

1/4 cup brandy

3 cups vanilla ice cream

Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a wide saucepan. Stir in the water and orange juice; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking until thickened.

Stir in the cherries and orange zest, return to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. While the cherries are cooking, spoon the ice cream into serving bowls.

Remove the cherries from the heat, and stir in the cherry extract. Pour in the brandy, and ignite with a long lighter.

Gently shake the pan until the blue flame has extinguished itself. Spoon the cherries over the bowls of ice cream.


Cherry Crumb Cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup sour cream

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarsely chopped pitted fresh cherries, tossed with 2 tablespoons flour


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. With an electric mixer, cream 6 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, almond extract, and sour cream until blended.

In another bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder, soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter just until blended. Fold in cherries.

Spoon into the prepared baking pan. Combine 6 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pecans.

Mix well. With fingers, crumble the streusel mixture evenly over the cake batter.  Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Serves 8 to 10.

Cherry Pie Filling

4 cups pitted tart red cherries

1 cup white sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 tsp. almond extract

Place cherries into a saucepan over medium heat, and cover the pan; heat cherries until they release their juice and come to a simmer, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir often.

In a bowl, whisk the sugar with cornstarch until smooth; pour the mixture into the hot cherries and juice, and thoroughly combine. Return to low heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until the filling has thickened, about 2 minutes; remove from heat, let cool, and use as pie filling. To can; fill jars with hot filling to 1/2-inch from top of 2-cup size glass jars. Add lids and rings and process 10 minutes. Store in cool, dry place.

–– Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s cooking columnist.

Vernon Morning Star