Make the most of Ireland’s short cherry season

JP McMahon: Here are two ways to enjoy the wild cherry

The Irish wild cherry (silín) is a hard one to find nowadays, but it has sustained us on this island since at least the Bronze Age. Photograph: iStock

The Irish wild cherry (silín) is a hard one to find nowadays, but it has sustained us on this island since at least the Bronze Age. Photograph: iStock

 

The Irish cherry season is a short one. Even though one can find cherries from elsewhere on any given day during winter in Ireland, I love to embrace the shortness of the season as a way of understanding the temporal nature of food on this island.

The Irish wild cherry (silín) is a hard one to find nowadays, but it has sustained us on this island since at least the Bronze Age. Cherry stones were unearthed during excavations in Offaly that date back millennia.

These wild cherries are very sour and we may find it difficult to eat them raw. Our modern palates have moved to more sugary notes. My favourite way to preserve cherries is either to pickle them or salt them in a 5 per cent brine solution (50g salt per litre of water). They’re best kept in the fridge or a cool place as they will hold their shape better. 

Because of their high pectin content, cherries make excellent jams and jellies. Food historian Regina Sexton showed me a cherry marmalade recipe from 1666 which was part of Dorothy Parson’s recipe collection in Birr Castle.

To make cherry marmalade and cherry liquor:

To make the marmalade, take 2kg of stoned cherries and add 450g of sugar. Place in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a gentle boil. Bring the mixture to the setting temperature (105 degrees) and then place in sterilised jars or a plastic container with a lid. 

Cherry liquor is an old Irish tipple. This would have been made by adding wild cherries to a base alcohol such as whiskey or brandy. To make cherry whiskey, take 500g of whole cherries, 750ml of whiskey and 250g of brown sugar. Mix and leave in a dark place for three to six months. It will be good by Christmas time. The sugar is not essential and can be added in the form of syrup or cordial after maturation.

Of course, the simplest way to enjoy Irish cherries is with some icing sugar and softly whipped cream. 

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.