I love cherries.
Growing up in northern Michigan we used to drive to the northwestern part of the state near Traverse City where there are enormous cherry orchards (hence the reason Traverse City hosts the National Cherry Festival each summer). We would drive to the "pick your own" cherry orchards, pick up a couple buckets and a ladder and head out to the orchards where the trees were heavy with fruit. We'd pick for a couple hours to fill the buckets, but I usually just ate more cherries than made it into the bucket.
Usually we would pick black cherries which my mom would pit and freeze, but occasionally we would pick the blushing yellow Queen Anne cherries. The difference between a black cherry and a Queen Anne cherry is amazing. Queen Anne cherries are crunchy and much sweeter and slightly more tart than the black cherries. Needless to say they never lasted long in my house.
I am delighted that you can now find these once uncommon cherries in the grocery store in summer. Back in July, Doug picked up a giant carton of them at Costco and we had been eating them as fast as we could, but there were still quite a few left so we decided to make them into ice cream before they spoiled. We decided to make an adult version of the Ben and Jerry's classic Cherry Garcia. This recipe is the result and I think it is terrific. It is very fragrant with Kirsch (cherry brandy) and almond extract and tastes like a frozen, boozy, chocolate-covered cherry.
A couple words about the ice cream:
1. To keep the cherries from freezing into rock hard chunks of cherry flavored ice, I cook them in sugar to soften them, then let them soak in Kirsch.
2. This is a really easy and fast microwave-based method for preparing the custard. I think it is nearly foolproof.
3. The cherries and chocolate need to be very cold when folded into the freshly prepared ice cream or else they will melt the ice cream and sink to the bottom.
4. I like booze as much as the next drunk, but avoid the temptation to add more Kirsch than indicated in the recipe or your ice cream will not set up!
Queen Anne "Cherry Garcia" Frozen Custard
2 cups Queen Anne Cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup Kirsch (no more than this or ice cream will not set up)
1 4oz. bar good quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half and half
½ tsp almond extract
Combine chopped cherries and ¼ cup sugar in a small saucepan and let macerate 20 minutes. Cook cherries until boiling, then remove from heat, add Kirsch and let cool. Strain cherries, reserving liquid. Place cherries in a container add chopped chocolate pieces and refrigerate until cold.
Combine cream and half and half in a large glass bowl and microwave for 3 minutes on high power. Meanwhile combine egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar in another bowl and whisk until well combined. While whisking eggs, gradually add ½ cup of hot cream to temper the eggs, then gradually add egg mixture back into glass bowl with the remaining hot cream, constantly whisking until well blended. Return egg/cream mixture to microwave and cook on high 1 minute. Stir. Microwave 30 seconds on high, stir, then 30 seconds again and stir. Mixture should be slightly thickened and should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add reserved cherry juice/kirsch and almond extract to custard base, mix and refrigerate until cold.
Process chilled custard base in ice cream maker until set. Fold in reserved COLD cherries and chopped chocolate. Freeze until firm.