Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cold Cherry Soup

When I was in college, I had the good fortune to meet a fellow classmate whose parents were from Lithuania. Kristina, and Marcy, her roommate of four years, were nearly inseparable. Both majored in Biology and spent many hours in the science building. The three of us became fast friends (we called ourselves "The Three Musketeers") and through them, I got to know their Chemistry professor very well. Although I was a solid Political Science major, the Chemistry professor became my faculty advisor during my junior year - and in that role, she was superb. The best part of the deal was that the prof invited us to her home for dinner on many occasions! Home cooking for three hungry students!

Kristina was from St. Paul, Minnesota, where her parents and younger sisters lived in a beautiful house in a gorgeous wooded setting. I was a guest in their home and at their table on several occasions. Kristina's mother, a stunning woman with great class and style, was also a marvelous cook. Much of what we ate was Lithuanian and it was delicious.

One warm summer evening, we were treated to a first course of Cold Cherry Soup. It was the height of the cherry season and it was a particularly lush crop. The soup was cool and refreshing - a blissful gift of the season. Chilled fruit soups are very popular in Eastern and Northern Europe, as well as Russia. Swedes eat a fruit soup made with dried fruit, tapioca and warm spices. It's often part of a Smörgåsbord and may be served hot or cold. It's one of my favorite Swedish comfort foods. Russians and Hungarians make their Cold Cherry Soup with fresh sour cherries (most often Morellos) and they're similar to the soup that was so elegantly prepared by Kristina's mother. Although I left Minnesota without the recipe, I was eventually able to closely replicate it at home. You may use Bing cherries or whatever cherries are in season.


2 lbs ripe red cherries, rinsed and pitted (reserve 12 for garnishing the soup)
1 cup water
1 cup Riesling, Rosé, Gewürztraminer, or other medium-dry wine
1/2 cup superfine sugar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons kirsch (clear black cherry brandy)
2 cups sour cream or plain yogurt, divided (lowfat is OK but do not use fat-free)

In a large saucepan combine the cherries, water, wine, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, covered, until the cherries are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and puree in two batches in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or a blender until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in 1-1/2 cups of the sour cream and kirsch. Taste and add an additional tablespoon of sugar if needed. Chill for at least 3 hours. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and the reserved cherries. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer, first course or dessert.

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