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~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~

IMG_9146In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat.  My grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as "pie cherries", but, if you are on a quest to purchase them, they are sometimes marketed as "tart cherries".  Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have come to learn is ideal for them, which is why our tree thrives, and thrives, and thrives.  That said, even in this ideal environment, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the very end of June or the very beginning of July.  Picking them is a bit tricky, as they are at their absolute best if left on the tree until you think they will begin to spoil if left there one more day, while at the same time getting them all picked, at once, before the birds devour an entire tree of cherries for you.

PICT5308Joe spent this past week "up a tree" -- his sour cherry tree!

1010437_520457528013296_662635763_nA bit about sour cherries vs. cherries in general:  Sour cherries should not be confused with their cousins, the reddish-black Bing cherry and the peachy-blush Rainier cherry.  These two sweet cherries (which are larger and firmer than sour cherries) are great for eating "as is" like any other fresh fruit, but they do not make for great baked desserts.  When sour cherries are cooked, they become quite sweet, plus, they hold their shape better than their sweet relatives.  Sour cherries are a bit too tart to eat more than just a few out-of-hand, but they make superb preserves, pies and cobblers.  That said, I make a marvelous sweet-and-savory sauce by cooking sour cherries with reduced duck stock.  It is absolutely decadent served with roast duck or pan-seared duck breast, pheasant or quail.

When one finds oneself with 150 pounds of pie cherries:

IMG_9409 IMG_9882 IMG_9635 IMG_9608 PICT0520 PICT0007 6a0120a8551282970b01901e159de2970b PICT0024 IMG_9008                                                        Expanding ones sour cherry recipe repertoire becomes a must!

Sour cherry soup? You betcha -- fruit soups are quite common in Eastern European, European and Scandinavian countries, but, this stellar stone-fruit soup was one I'd never heard of until my friend, Mike Colicchio told me about it.  Mike, his wife Sue and their twin daughters, Kim and Jen, lived in Hungary a few years ago, and, it seems this soup won a place in all of their hearts.

IMG_9158"Meggyleves", is a traditional Summertime Hungarian treat -- "meggy" means "sour cherries", "leves" means soup, and, "hideg" means "cold".  Every family has their version and it's usually served before the meal.  In Hungary, this soup is typically prepared with un-pitted cherries, but, American versions commonly stray from that. It's always made from tart cherries, never sweet cherries, cherry juice, water, sugar, flour and sour cream (which gives it its pretty pink color). Lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, cloves and brandy or sherry are common additions.  I "cherry picked" through a few recipes to plan my version, and, one thing the experts all agree on is:  use fresh or frozen cherries (which, when thawed, provide a nice amount of juice), not cherries that come out of a can or a jar (which they consider an insulting compromise).  Once the soup is cooked and chilled, it is sometimes blended until smooth prior to serving garnished with a few freshly-picked cherries.

IMG_90642-2 1/2  pounds fresh (or thawed) pitted sour cherries + all juice

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  whole cinnamon sticks

6  whole cloves

6  cups water

2  cups sour cream

4-6  tablespoons cherry brandy

6  tablespoons Wondra Flour

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

fresh, sour cherries for garnishing each portion (optional) 

IMG_9075~ Step 1.  Place cherries and all juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and water in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot.  Stir and allow to sit, for about 5 minutes, stirring off and on, to dissolve sugar.

IMG_9088Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently, then, adjust IMG_9086heat to simmer vigorously, stirring frequently, for 15-16 minutes.

IMG_9083~ Step 2.  In a 1-quart measuring container (or a bowl bigger than you think you need), stir together the sour cream, brandy, flour and salt, until smooth.  Set aside.

Note:  For those occasions when meggyleves is served as a dessert, IMG_9097or, if you just like your soup a little sweeter, the experts say it is ok to stir 2 tablespoons Confectioners' sugar into the sour cream mixture as well.  I am not adding any today.

IMG_9099~ Step 3. When the cherries are cooked, temper the sour cream mixture with a soup ladleful of the hot cherry liquid, stir until smooth, IMG_9106then add all of the sour cream mixture to the cooked cherries in the pot.  Bring to a very gentle simmer and barely simmer, do not boil, for 15-16 more minutes.

~ Step 4.  Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep and cool for 2-4 hours.  Refrigerate, covered, for several hours or overnight.  Soup will thicken as it cools.  Note: Covering keeps a sticky film from forming on the surface.  Serve cold.

~ Optional Step 5.  Using a hand-held stick blender, process soup until smooth, then, serve cold.

Pretty in pink: old-school whole-cherry hideg meggyleves:

IMG_9122Sometimes, life really is a bowl full of cherries...

IMG_9143... or, if you live dangerously, a cone of sour cherry 'ice cream'!

 (Freeze 1-quart of chilled soup in your gelato or ice-crem machine, as per manufacturer's directions,  for 45-60 minutes.  Is best if eaten immediately.  Since it contains no milk or cream, it is not technically ice cream, but, the tangy sour cream makes it better in taste and texture than best frozen yogurt you've ever tasted.)

IMG_9184Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Heideg Meggyleves):  Recipe yields 11-12 cups, or, about 3 quarts, or, about 6-8, 1 1/2-2 cup servings.  Leftovers, which are a joy if you have any, will keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Do not freeze leftover soup.

Special Equipment List:  cherry pitter; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; 1-quart measuring container; large spoon, soup ladle; hand-held stick blender (optional) 

6a0120a8551282970b01538f5214fb970bCook's Note:  I just love this new-to-me chilled, Summertime, sour-cherry soup recipe.  Thanks again Mike.  For one I grew up eating, equally as decadent, ~ It's A Dad Thing:  Strawberry Soup ~, can be found in Categories 6, 11, 12 or 21.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2015)


Nancy -- how nice to hear from you! The soup, as I prepared it today, is an appetizer/starter before the main course. When it is served as a dessert, 2 tablespoons of Confectioners' sugar is stirred into the sour cream mixture, and, it's sometimes garnished with a bit of freshly whipped cream. Either way, it is divine -- do hope you'll try it! ~ Mel.

I have never made a cherry soup, but this post has convinced me to try it. Is it served as an appetizer or dessert?

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