chukar

Photo credit: Michael Sarko

The noble Washington cherry. Sweet, firm and pleasant to the eye, it’s one of the many natural bounties that make Washington such a great state. And yet that little stone fruit is rarely loved for its versatility. It’s astounding how few people explore cherries beyond pie and cocktail garnish. Sure, cherries are great at both of those things, but dessert pastry and chilled Manhattans are far from everyday foods. There’s so much more to this red wonder as a regular part of the Pacific Northwest culinary routine. For a little inspiration, take a trip to Pike Place Market and find out why Seattle locals love Chukar Cherries.

Chukar Cherries is a Seattle institution, providing a wide variety of snacks, treats and curiosities to market-goers since 1988. Pamela Montgomery, a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, decided to share the products of her family’s orchard in the peaceful river community of Prosser, Washington. Prosser is a town in Washington wine country along the Yakima river, a semi-arid climate that has been home to some of the state’s finest vineyards and orchards. Pam and her husband JT fell in love with the 100 acre plot that would become Heirloom Orchards and set to growing premium Washington cherries, including the popular Bing and Rainier varieties, as well as other tree fruits like peaches.

Aside from their delicious chocolate-covered cherry treats, Chukar makes a killer trail mix called Nuts Over Bings, a combination of dried cherries, pistachios, cashews and almonds. For a more indulgent snack, the Cherry Pecan Caramel Corn is out of this world.

But if you’re looking for something you can cook with, there’s a lot of potential in the Red Sour Cherry Preserves. A goat cheese pairing? Sure. A cheesecake topping? Of course. But what about a cherry tart? More specifically, a Cherry Nut Tartelette using all local ingredients? You can start with this original Local Dish recipe.

Start with 2 cups of your favorite nuts (almonds, pecans and especially hazelnuts, or any combination work wonders).

Roast and grind the nuts to a fine consistency. Then mix them together with ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ cup of granulated sugar and just a pinch of brown sugar.

Once combined, throw in ¼ cup of melted, unsalted butter. Stir to combine. Divide the mixture into 4-6 miniature pie tins or small ramekins, making sure to press and compact the mix firmly and uniformly into the bottom and sides.

Let them chill in the refrigerator for an hour and then pop the mini-crusts into a preheated, 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Keep your eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.

Once your crusts are finished, let them cool for a half hour, then fill them with the Chukar Red Sour Cherry Preserves.

If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, you can also add a small dollop of crème fraiche to really liven up the tartness of the cherries.

Chill and serve.