I recently moved back to the Italian countryside for the summer. One of the best parts about spending the summer on a farm in Tuscany is the access to fresh fruit and vegetables. My neighbors are primarily olive farmers, but they have an extensive vegetable garden and raise their own chickens, geese and pigs for food. They grow tomatoes that slice to the size of steaks. Apricot and pomegranate trees line their dirt driveway.
A cherry tree stands at the base of the sloping drive, next to their “agriturismo,” farmhouse apartments for weekly rental. This time of year, the tree is bursting – overflowing – with fresh, ripe cherries. I asked permission to use some, then headed down the hill armed with a giant bowl. For the sake of the recipe, I confess I don’t exactly know how many cup of cherries I picked, but it was enough that the bowl was nearly filled to the brim and my palms turned a sticky red.
- 8 cups freshly picked cherries
- 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 Teaspoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour (500 g)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups brown sugar
Pit the cherries. Some people use a cherry pitter. I don’t even know what that is or where to buy one (especially in Italy). In fact, this was officially my first time ever pitting cherries. This is the “Old School” cherry crisp – everything by hand! Just try not to spray cherry juice on the wall like I did.
Optional de-juicing cherry bake. Depending on what kind of cherries you’re working with, they may need to dry out a bit in the oven. These wild Italian cherries are so juicy, my crisp ran the risk of becoming soup. From the pitting process alone I had more than one cup of cherry juice. I placed the pitted cherries in a glass baking dish and tossed them in the oven at 300˚F for 15 minutes with a few spoonfuls of sugar, then drained the excess juice.
Now, what can be done with cherry juice? Oh, I know – cocktail break!!!
And now back to our regularly scheduled recipe…
Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
Make the filling. Mix the cherries, sugar, flour and cinnamon. Let it rest for ten minutes or so.
Make the topping. Make sure the butter has been sitting out a while, and that it’s nice and mushy. Mix everything except for the walnuts. I use my hands to knead the mixture like bread, until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Eventually the topping will take on the texture of gravel, or small pebbles. Once your mixture looks like the one pictured below, add the chopped walnuts.
Assemble your crisp. Add the cherry mixture to a glass baking dish, then add the topping.
Bake for 25-30 minutes on a middle rack, or until the topping has turned a golden brown and the cherries are bubbling up around the edges. Allow your cherry walnut crisp to cool on a rack, then savor every sour cherry bite with a generous scoop of gelato. My suggestion: crema.