Fruit magic called cherries

When cherries turn reddish, it’s a clear sign that summer is almost here. These sweet refreshing summer fruits herald the wide range of fruit expecting us in the months to come. Given that cherries and their flavour are full of aroma and scent and that they’re easy to eat, hardly anyone can resist them.

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Cherries can be grown almost anywhere in Croatia and there are numerous varieties differing in their colour, shape, size and meat texture. Given that there are red and yellow cherries, the colour is the most noticeable difference. Even though their season is rather short, cherries can be preserved in all kinds of ways ranging from drying, making compotes and delicious jams and marmalades.

Thanks to their unequalled aroma, cherries are an ideal fruit for delicious desserts such as tarts, pies, strudels, sponge cakes and interesting cakes. You can dip them in chocolate and they’re also ideal for ice desserts such as sorbets and ice cream. Given the high sugar level and their unique flavour, you don’t have to add too much sugar or use intense seasonings. Cherries also go great with meat - veal or duck. The sauce that forms while you roast the meat with cherries will leave you speechless because it will taste great and look amazing. You can serve fried cherries in cold salads with walnuts, coriander and a bit of chopped chilli peppers or in a salad with baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, chive and chopped roasted almonds.Image author: Thinkstock

While home-grown cherries are just a fond memory of older generations in some parts of the world, cherries are still preserved as an indispensible fruit in almost any garden in Croatia both in rural and urban regions. This tradition isn’t upheld just by families, but also by restaurants that go to great lengths to keep it as an authentic part of local cuisine. Sweet cherry fruits are ideal for simple desserts because the fruit itself will permeate all aromas and the desserts’ flavour.

In addition to being known for their picturesque wine trails and cottages, the hills of Zagorje are very much a true fruit oasis. The Vuglec family pick their very own cherries at their hill and use them in their restaurant Vuglec Breg, the first restaurant in Zagorje included by Michelin in their map of Croatia. Chef Mateja Ranogajec told us in more detail how at Vuglec Breg they go about preparing the sour cherry strudel, a classic that’s always in high demand.

- We pick the cherries when they’re really ripe and almost dark, we remove the piths and sprinkle them with sugar and vanilla sugar. While the marinated cherries are left to stand, we prepare the dough. We knead oil, water, plan flour and an egg. When we’re done kneading the dough, we let it stand for ten to twenty minutes. When it’s done standing, we put it on the counter, roll it, add more oil and let it stand again for ten to twenty minutes. Then we roll the dough, add the cherry stuffing, roll it into a strudel and smear melted butter on top. Once the strudel is done, we just sprinkle it with powdered sugar.Image author: Thinkstock

You can enjoy cherries in Samobor where the family restaurant Gostionica Dalmacija headed by women chefs is unyielding in preserving local specialties of this region. Verica Heraković is a team member who told us how they make cherry jam.

- First I remove the piths, I cook them until they boil and then I add sugar. The cherry-sugar ratio is: a kilogramme of sugar per kilogramme of cherries. Then I add a bit of lemon juice, but not too much because the cherries have enough acidity in their own right. In this particular case lemon is added in order to keep the nice bright colour. Finally we add gelatine or jam fix with a bag of gelatine added per three kilogrammes of fruit. I always leave fruit chunks in the jam. There was this one time I made jam from wild cherries I picked in the forest. It was even sweeter than the one made from home-grown cherries, which was a surprise. We used the jam in different desserts ranging from buns, crepes and cakes. We also make a yoghurt cake with this jam.Image author: Thinkstock

You can continue enjoying cherries in Samobor's restaurants which are really going to great lengths to offer the very best culinary specialties. At restaurant Zeleni papar owner and head chef Željka Amidžić has come up with a great seasonal menu where you can try specialties of continental Croatia, as well as Istria and Dalmatia, while cherries are served with game.

- Candied cherries are prepared by cooking cleaned cherries with sugar, lemon and citric acid. It's important that they stay in one piece. We serve candied cherries with game such as venison, deer or boar and bread knedle and chicken livers. Game has an acidic flavour so in combination with candied cherries served as a side dish you get a sweet-sour version.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve decided to enjoy fresh cherries or try some of the specialties offered by restaurants, we definitely wish you a gourmet beginning of summer.