And then we saw one gnarled tree covered with small, pale yellow, perfect cherries. We mistook them for Rainiers at first, but there wasn't a tinge of pink anywhere. They tasted different, too: less sweet, but not quite sour. We picked some but didn't think to ask about them when we weighed in and paid. They got lost in the shuffle, mixed in with the crowd.
This year we made the trek to Leona Valley again, and after picking 20 pounds (yes, really) at another orchard, Emery insisted we stop at Hobart's. Not that we needed more cherries - but he had to have the elusive yellow ones. The orchard manager walked us to the back of the orchard. "Stone Hardy Gold," he said. "It's the only one in the valley. I should take some cuttings, I guess, plant a few more."
Not too many people go looking for the Stone Hardy Golds, apparently, and that's a shame, because they've got that ethereal heirloom flavor: complex, each cherry a little different, bred neither for size nor for sugar content. Pitting them took a long time, but the simple jam I made with them is phenomenal and worth the effort.
This method works with any cherries. If you happen to find Stone Hardy Golds, so much the better.
Yellow cherry jam
- 1 lb Stone Hardy Gold yellow cherries (or any variety)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- juice of 1/2 lemon
Bring the cherry mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat somewhat so the jam doesn't boil over and make a huge mess on your stove. (And yes, I speak from experience here.) Skim the foam from the top of the jam as it rises. Boil the mixture about 40 minutes, or until the juices have thickened a bit.
Ladle the jam into hot, clean jars. You can either process them in a hot-water bath like the canning goddesses do, or you can take the lazy cook's way and put the jars into the refrigerator after they cool. Either way, the jam is not likely to last long once you taste it, for obvious reasons. Especially if you use it to top a slice of Brie on toast, as shown above.