I remember gorgeous blue and white vases, with the word AMARENA emblazoned on them, with me staring up at them in wonder. What child isn’t fascinated by beautiful, tantalising displays of sweet seduction in a pastry shop? I know it wasn’t just me. Most Italian pasticcerie, even here in Melbourne, Australia (so so far away!), had at least a few of these Fabbri vases on display. Their mysterious contents? The most wonderful morello cherry preserves ever. Amarenata. This simple but glorious concoction is a classic Italian sour cherry preserve that is used liberally in the iconic gelato all’amarena, a lovely rich cream gelato with amarenata drizzled lusciously over the top, like this one. There isn’t a gelateria in Italy that doesn’t serve this classic ice-cream flavour. It is also used in a variety of Italian pastries and desserts across Italy.
I love using amarenata in gelato, semifreddo, all manner of desserts and pastries. It’s wonderful with zabaione, with CHOCOLATE, with nut cakes and pastries, and anything creamy. Bringing home a vase of Amarenata was a very special treat. It was always expensive, but you got to keep the lovely vase. Sadly, when the amarene were finished, it was an empty jar. Simply begging to be refilled. Hmmm, well, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore!
It’s rather quick and easy to make your own amarenata at home. The hardest part, for me, is finding fresh morello cherries! Over recent years, it has become more difficult to find fresh morello cherries in summer but happily they are becoming much more readily available frozen. The number of growers has reduced here in Victoria. *sad face* However, the quality of the frozen cherries eclipses the fresh ones as they are so very perishable and the frozen cherries are picked and frozen at their peak so hooray! I love stocking up on packs of frozen morellos to have during the winter months as a luxury … and to satisfy that sudden craving for an amazing black forest torte. I’m taking the same approach to these as I do with my mangoes – stock the freezer. It’s not cheap but they make for a special treat to remind one of summer when the weather cools 😀
This recipe can be scaled up or down, depending on your needs.
Immerse yourself in the fragrance, the tart-sweet ambiguity, of this seductive sour cherry preserve.
Next post … we’re using these cherries in a very special tart.
Now, I’ve been noticing of late that the Top 5 posts that you’re all peeking at are the healthy ones … all protein and paleo excitement. Obviously, I share that excitement! Lots more of those to come and I’m currently compiling a list to share. This also means I really really must take this blog to Splitsville and get the layout easier to navigate so you know which side of the fence you’re on. Gathering together my minions (aka people who know heaps more than I do about how to do this properly) and hopefully there’ll be some funky moves and changes happening!
For now, even if you’re thinking, WHAAA this isn’t healthy … well sure, there’s sugar but hey, sour cherries are well-known for their FABULOSO muscle recovery benefits. The best of both worlds is amarenata.
Those of us with a geeky side might just say it brings balance to the Force
Makes approx 4.5 cups
1 kilogram morello cherries, fresh or frozen (pitted weight)*
500 grams sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
2 teaspoons cinnamon or 1 cinnamon bark stick
*If using fresh cherries, pit and stem them before weighing for this recipe.
Place the cherries, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large non-reactive saucepan and mix well. If using a vanilla bean, split and scrape out the seeds into the pan but also add the split bean. Place over a low to medium heat on the stove until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the cherries to a heatproof bowl. Return the syrup to the stove and bring to the boil. Let simmer over a low heat until the temperature reaches 105℃. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature.
Return the cherries to the saucepan and simmer until the temperature again reaches 105℃.
If you plan to use the amarenata during the next few weeks, place the amarenata into a container and allow to cool before sealing airtight and storing in the refrigerator.
If you wish to store them for use during the year, have ready some preserving jars that have been sterilised. Remove the vanilla bean and cinnamon quill, if using. Fill the jars with the hot amarenata and seal. Process the preserves in a water bath for 45 minutes. Let cool, label and date the jars, and store for up to 12 months. Once opened, store the jar in the refrigerator.
Tart and sweet and dark cherry goodness: