As I see it, the problem with nature is that it’s natural. It’s hot, humid, and contains insects. For instance, there’s this shiny black bug that looks like a cross between a spider and a housefly. It twitches, skitters in circles, and jumps on you for fun, but only when you’re on a tall wobbly ladder picking cherries. While I haven’t verified this with scientists, I’m pretty sure that if this bug lands on you it will crawl up your nose and eat the top layer of your brain.
At least nature provides us with sour cherries—the perfect pie, tart, and crumble ingredient—colored a smashing shade of red. My neighbor invited me to pick sour cherries from her tree, and I would have done so right away if nature didn’t get in the way. When it wasn’t storming it was 90 degrees with 95% humidity, and when the cancer-causing sun finally set, the West Nile mosquitoes lined up on my porch ready to swarm me on sight. (I am the foie gras of the mosquito world. Chiggers love me too. Sand fleas have constructed temples in my honor.) As a result of nature’s cruelty, the cherries were almost gone when I went to pick them. That’s when I learned that if you leave them on the tree too long, cherries and white mold become totally BFF. Sigh.
“The early bird gets the worm,” is exactly the kind of thing nature would say. “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” is another thing nature would say. “You snooze, you lose.” Nature’s a bitch.
When I found enough perfect cherries for a crumble, I dumped them into an old grocery bag and pitted them with my pitter, the juices harmlessly squirting the inside of the bag instead of my eyes. Take that, nature’s pits! I was going to post a picture of the setup for educational purposes, but the red-stained plastic with piles of gutted cherries looked too much like a scene from the morgue.
Food blogging rule #1: Never post photos that look as if they could have been taken at the morgue.
Food blogging rule #2: Never use the word “morgue” on a food blog.
Sorry about that.
This crumble recipe is adapted from a cross between this cherry pie recipe and Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Nigella Lawson, who probably adapted it from nature. The idea of a crisp topping on steroids with no added butter really spoke to me. It works. Don’t be alarmed by all the sugar—unlike sweet cherries, sour cherries really need the help.
NATURE’S VERY OWN SOUR CHERRY CRUMBLE
Toss together and let sit for one hour:
· 6 cups sour cherries, pitted
· 1 cup white sugar, more if you like it sweet
· 1/4 cup cornstarch
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix together gently until the size of sand, pebbles, and stones:
· 1 1/3 cup flour
· 1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) melted butter
1) Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2) Pour the macerated cherries into an 8×8 deep baking dish, a larger shallow dish, or multiple small baking dishes, whatever works. If the filling goes all the way to the top of the dish, place the dish on a baking sheet to prevent messy spills.
3) Cover the fruit loosely and evenly with the crumbled topping mixture.
4) Bake until the crumble topping is spotted with brown and cherry juices bubble through, 35-45 minutes.
5) Cool the crumble until at least lukewarm to allow the fruit to set.