It’s cherry season in Europe and we went to Iberica to try dishes made with some special cherries from Spain now available in the UK.
Now we don’t want to undermine the British cherry market; right now the laybys in Kent are full of local producers with temporary stalls selling fresh cherries. Buy lots and eat lots, please.
At the same time though it’s worth seeking out other cherries and Jerte Picota cherries a little bit special and won’t be around for long.
Jerte Picota cherries are grown in the Jerte Valley, west of Madrid in the Extremadura region of Spain, which is an area of great natural beauty. They’ve been cultivated here since the 17th Century on mountains over 6,000 feet high, on fertile soil, watered by crystal-clear streams and in the purest air.
When they are perfectly ripen, they are hand-picked into chestnut baskets, following age-old traditions and the pickers sort them by hand on the spot at the base of the trees.
They are naturally sweet, perfectly ripe and uniquely they are stalkless. They arecompletely natural, not forced or protected, which means that the season is short and only lasts for about 4-6 weeks a year. This season begins in mid-end of June, running to the end of July.
As a PDO product Jerte Picota cherries are handled under strict quality procedures and are grown, harvested and packed in a specific way to protect the PDO status.
You can spot a Jerte Picota because Picota means Peaked and the Jerte Picotas have a slight peak to the base. They are a lovely colour, like a great classic red wine.
Iberica’s chef seemed delighted to be using this rare product, first putting half a cherry into a glass of cava where the bubbles rose up bearing the aroma of the cherry.
Picota cherries gazpacho with soft cheese ice cream, anchovy and mint was superb, the cherries and the cheese a wonderful contrast and plenty of the salty, umami anchovy to go with the aromatic mint.
Another dish of Pan seared tuna with almond cream Ajoblanco and pickled Picota cherries was another winner, the cherries not something you’d normally try with tuna.
Ibérico grilledpork pluma with apple purée and Picota cherries sauce was a lovely piece of this superior pork made even sweeter thanks to the cherries.
A final dish of Picota cherries crema Catalana foam was the cherry on the cake.
The Picota cherries are available now in Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons. They will stop being stocked at the beginning of August. For some fabulous recipes, to keep you cherrying from breakfast to dessert, go to cerezadeljerte.org
For more information on Jerte Picotas PDO, also visit www.picota.co.uk