The season may be nearing an end for our delicious Marlborough Cherries, but February is officially cherry month! So, we thought we’d celebrate these beautiful deep red baubles of joy. In this blog article, we’re sharing an extract from an article in our recently published Summer Preview Magazine.
We spoke to Simon Bishell from Caythorpe cherries.
Marlborough Cherries – The Caythorpe Story:
In 1876 David Bishell travelled to New Zealand for a better life. Four years later he bought land in Marlborough, named it Caythorpe after his home village in England, and began farming. Around a hundred years later, the family-run farm diversified. Cherry trees and vines were planted, and a new chapter began. These days, it’s Simon Bishell, fifth-generation descendant from David, who manages the orchard and packhouse on Middle Renwick Road.
Simon will tell you that life as an orchardist is not always a bowl of cherries. He says, “Cherries are hard work, there’s a reason that the number of stone fruit orchards have declined since the heydays of the eighties and nineties.” That said, Simon will also attest that if you have patience and a willingness to succeed, it’s very satisfying to harvest a crop of fruit guaranteed to put smiles on the faces of both young and old alike.
The Caythorpe orchard is surrounded by a dense shelter of trees, creating a unique microclimate protected from the wind, and where warmth prevails. It’s planted with a mixture of Rosann, Stella, Lapin, Sonnet, Bing and Rainer varieties. These are selected firstly for the practicalities of spreading out harvest dates, but more importantly because they all produce cherries that are big, sweet, juicy and full of flavour. Simon credits this intensity of flavour partly to the very same terroir that is important for the region’s wine production. Add to the mix our perfect Marlborough climate, cool winters for vernalisation, warm spring temperatures (to encourage bee activity and fruit set) and early dry summer days with cool nights, and you can grow the perfect Caythorpe cherry.
If you’re still able to access some delicious Marlborough Cherries then you might want to try out these two recipes.
Annabel Langbein’s Sweet cherries in vanilla red wine syrup
(Recipe makes 3 medium jars)
- 2 bottles Merlot (Don’t use the good stuff!)
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- 1 vanilla pod or 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cloves
- 1.5 kgs Marlborough cherries
- Combine the wine, sugar, water, vanilla and cloves in a large pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the cherries and bring back to a boil. Boil for 12 minutes.
- Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 4 weeks or, for longer storage, divide between sterilised jars and cover with syrup to overflow, removing any air bubbles by running a knife around the inside of the jars. Seal with sterilised lids. They will keep for months in a cool place.
- Serve with ice cream or panna cotta.
Raymond Blanc’s Cherry Clafoutis
For the cherries:
- 450g Marlborough cherries, pitted
- 50g caster sugar
To prepare the dish:
- 10g unsalted butter, melted
- 30g caster sugar
For the batter:
- 2 medium eggs
- 45g caster sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla syrup
- 20g unsalted butter
- 20g plain flour
- 50ml milk
- 75ml whipping cream
- 1 pinch sea salt
- Gently mix the cherries and sugar in a bowl. Cover and leave to macerate for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Brush the inside of an ovenproof dish with the melted butter. Add the sugar and tilt the dish to coat the sides and base evenly; shake out the excess.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla together until creamy. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan and cook to a beurre noisette (when the foaming butter turns a hazelnut colour). Add the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk until smooth, then slowly incorporate the milk, cream, salt and beurre noisette. Stir in the cherries with their juice and then pour into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 30–35 minutes until the clafoutis has lightly risen and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Sprinkle with extra caster sugar and serve just warm.