Sunshine has finally arrived to Texas! I am so happy to be leaving the rainy month of May behind and enjoy everything that typical hot Austin summers have to offer: sunbathing in Zilker Park, dipping in the cold and refreshing Barton Springs, weekend getaways to Hamilton Pool and the Hill Country, Blues on the Green, and paddle boarding on Town Lake. As great as all of these may sound, I know that by September I'll be fed up with the heat, but until then I want to live the summer to its fullest.
Summer in terms of food should be about light and refreshing dishes and this delicious sour cherry soup is one them. It may sound odd at first as it's not that common anywhere aside from Hungary, but I promise that its tart taste and creamy texture will blow your socks off.
In my Zserbó Cake post I mentioned that my grandparents, Tatus and Iolika, had an amazing orchard in their backyard with an impressive number of cherry trees. During the hot summer days my grandma would always make us- my cousins, my sister and I- huge pots of cold soups. Cold fruit soups were our favorite type. She would alternate the sour cherries with pears, quince or currants so we wouldn't get bored of the same taste.
In Hungary this soup is called meggyleves and it's served mostly during the hot summer months, but it's not unheard of it to be served warm during the colder months of the year. I prefer it cold. You can taste it before it cools down and decide which one you like better. Making this soup is very easy as it requires little effort. As kids, our contribution to this soup was to pick, wash and then pit the cherries. We hated doing this because we had to pit buckets full of cherries for not only the soup but also for preserves and compote. Fortunately nowadays it's easy to find pitted sour cherries so the dirty work has been taken care of for you by machines.
I'm not sure in which category to put this summer delicacy, because in Hungary we'd eat it either for lunch or dinner, before or after the main dish. Is there a thing called appetizer-dessert? If not I’m coining the term. Enjoy!
Chilled Sour Cherry Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
- 2 jars sour cherries in syrup (12 oz each) (or 2 lbs. fresh or frozen pitted sour cherries and 3 cups cherry juice)
- 1/2 lemon, peeled
- 7 cups water
- 5 TSB sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- 1 two-inch vanilla bean pod (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 1.4 oz vanilla pudding powder
- 1 tsp starch (potato or arrowroot)
- 8 oz heavy cream (or sour cream)
- 1/2 cup roasted slivered almonds
- 6 fresh mint leaves, chopped
- In a large sauce pan combine cherry syrup from the jars (or 3 cups juice), water, lemon peel, sugar, salt, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, anise and vanilla.
- If using fresh cherries you should add them as well. If using jarred or frozen sour cherries, hold off on putting them in for a bit. Usually the jarred ones are already cooked in syrup, so if you boil them now they'll be mushy by time the soup is ready. Same for the frozen cherries- they are usually blanched.
- Bring sauce pan to a boil over medium high heat. Stir and boil for about 15 minutes for the spices to become fragrant. You should be able to smell the cinnamon, cloves and anise if you leaned over the pan.
- While the spiced mixture is boiling, combine vanilla pudding powder and starch in a small mixing bowl. Slowly pour the cream of your choice and whisk vigorously for about 3 minutes. Make sure there aren't any lumps in the mixture.
- Remove spices (cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise) and lemon peel from the sauce pan using a sieve and discard them. Reduce the heat to medium. Taste the soup and adjust sweetness. If you follow the recipe the soup will be on the tart side, but if you prefer it sweeter you can add more sugar. You can make it even more tart by adding freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Temper the dairy mixture by transferring one ladle at a time of the hot soup from the sauce pan into the mixing bowl. You want to slowly raise the temperature of the cream, otherwise it will curdle when added to the hot soup. Once tempered, pour the dairy mixture into the pot and stir to combine.
- If using jarred or frozen cherries now is the time to add them to the soup. Stir and cook until the soup becomes thick and creamy, about 5-6 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, bring the soup to a boil and remove the pan from the heat. You're done!
- Chill the soup for about an hour in the refrigerator. Sprinkle almonds and mint right before serving.
To get the vanilla beans out of the pods split the pod in half lengthwise then scrape the beans out of the pod halves with the back of your knife using firm pressure.
If the soup ends up lumpy or the dairy curdled, remove the sour cherries from the soup and set them aside. Using an immersion blender mix the soup until the lumps are gone. Put the cherries back in the soup.