As Sophia is still too little to really enable us to travel to far and exotic destinations, but a vacation was an absolute must, we decided to have a stay-cation. That is, we planned not to go anywhere (far) and enjoyed just being out and about locally. My parents offered for us to come up so that they could babysit in the evenings and we could go out and catch up with friends. We accepted without hesitation. The Friday before we left, I got an email that my local farm opened with pick-your-own strawberries and tart cherries. I happily ran over to pick some for the road and as a hostess gift for my parents. Ten pounds of strawberries later (with obvious signs of heat exhaustion not to mention sunburn, I opted for the pre-picked tart cherries).
Tart cherries hold a special place in my heart. My mother’s mother had a beautiful fruit and vegetable garden. Aside from apples, pears, apricots, peaches, strawberries, red and black currants, rhubarb, gooseberries, and rasberries, she also grew tart cherries. Tart cherry season meant one thing when I was little: Tart Cherry Vareniki. Hot out of the water, tart, sweet, oozing with syrup — there are very few dishes that are better in the early summer. We used to pick them ourselves, gallons of cherries, their red juice squirting everywhere in our little hands. They were probably a little worse for the wear and fewer in numbers by the time they got to the house when we picked them as kids, but that made them perfect for varenniki.
Anyway, apparently tart cherries aren’t as available here. In fact, I’ve only seen them at farmer’s markets in Philadelphia and at the local farm. We’ve begged my mom to make the varenniki with them for years and even used hubby as a ploy. My sister, her husband, my dad and I would say “Come on mom, E. hasn’t had these, EVER…. don’t you want to show off your culinary prowess with dumplings?” She would always say “Get me real tart cherries, come help and I will do it”. Well, the day had finally come. Too hot, tired and dirty from a very wet strawberry field, I picked up two quarts of cherries and ran quickly to my car as if the cashier at the farm was going to demand her cherries back. To excited, I called my mom and told her of my acquisition. She was in disbelief and probably slightly disgruntled but very much up to the challenge. So, in true multi-cultural fashion, we decided to make them for Memorial Day to supplement the remainder of our pretty typical BBQ menu. Since I acquired the cherries and essentially was the cause of this, I volunteered to pit the cherries. Two hours later (my mother was so sure she would NEVER make these here in the States that she does not own a cherry pitter), I was done albeit already ready to be done with cooking. I helped make the dough and learned how to form them. You’ll see in the pictures that mine are the much uglier and misshapen and my mom’s are beautiful and uniform. Nonetheless, they were D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S and hubby declared that they were amazing and worth waiting for. All in all, not too difficult to make, but they disappear into hungry bellies much faster than it takes to make them. I’ll make them again, and again and always remember my childhood summer memories as I cook them. When she is older, I’ll tell Sophia the stories of my childhood over a plate of varenniki.