The cherry harvest is in full swing right now, and to celebrate it, the village of Mons-la-Trivalle holds a cherry festival each year, at the beginning of June. Cherries are grown all over the Languedoc region, but they seem to especially thrive in some areas. The upper valley of the River Orb is one of these areas, and if you go for a drive at the right time during spring, you’ll see the most amazing sights of trees, white with cherry blossoms! Later on you’ll see stalls set up by the roadside, selling cherries :).
The growing season for cherries is pretty short. From mid to late May, locally grown cherries start to make an appearance in our weekly farmers market.
The first of the crop are usually quite expensive, but as the season gets under way the prices drop. Cherries can never be a cheap fruit though: each cherry has to be carefully picked by hand, and that takes time!
I arrived at the “Fete de la Cerise” just after lunchtime – parking was well signposted, and the view from the car park (up the hill from where the fete was taking place) was spectacular!
Walking down the road to the village, the cherry trees I passed were heavy with fruit, and the sun was shining – what could be better??
When I got to the fete I made a beeline for the flea market; there I found a very good selection of all things bric-a-brac, and fell in love with a bentwood armchair – more on that later :)!
The “cherry market” was great too – although, since I was relatively late, the cherries were not as much in abundance as they had been in the morning. But there were enough for me to snap pictures of, and to buy. I had it in mind to make a Clafoutis, a dessert traditionally made with cherries. The selection of stalls was excellent, colourful ceramics vying with equally colourful baskets, and there were plants, and hats and of course food!! I couldn’t resist the French Fries from the Belgian food stand :)!
Entertainment was provided for all ages: Donkeys would take children for a ride, there was a gyroscope, a stilt-walker, and then there was a corner where a number of games had been set up! I decided to try a game called Quarto, where wooden pieces are placed on a board, with the aim of forming a line where either the colour, height, shape, or top of the pieces match. The interesting part is that you chose the piece which your opponent has to put down on the board. Can’t be that difficult, I thought, and promptly lost the first two games :(, but then I won the third 😀 !
The cherry theme was in evidence everywhere! Even the members of the roaming drum band had decorated their drums, and in some cases themselves, with cherries!
After all the exertions in the market, I had an ice cream and a glass of water in the local cafe. From where I was sitting I had a great view of the bentwood armchair – it just kept calling to me. In the end I simply had to go and take another look at it, and guess what – I came away with the chair in my hands :). The seat needs re-caning, but the price was good and the shape just so beautiful!
Once I’d gotten my chair home (luckily it fit into the car!), I made the cherry clafoutis. It’s a very simple dessert: cherries baked in a kind of pancake batter. Originally from the Limousin, clafoutis is now popular all over the south. Over the years I’ve tried a number of different recipes and methods, and I’ve now hit on one which I like best.
500 g cherries
125 ml milk
60 ml cream (single or whipping)
50 g sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp kirsch
butter for greasing
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Butter a round or square oven-proof dish, just large enough to hold your fruit in a single layer; I used a 23×23 cm sized ceramic dish for this recipe.
Wash your cherries and decide on whether or not you want to stone them – I’m not sure whether cooking the cherries with their stones adds any flavour, so when I have enough time I will stone them.
In a bowl mix the flour and sugar, then add the cream, milk, kirsch and eggs and stir with a wire whisk until combined. Leave the batter to rest for 10 minutes; stir briefly, then pour over the cherries and bake for 30 – 35 minutes. The exact cooking time may vary depending on your oven, but the clafoutis is cooked when it starts getting puffed around the edges and is no longer wobbly in the centre.
Serve warm or at room temperature. If serving to children you can omit the kirsch and add a drop (but only one drop!) of almond essence. You can make this a day ahead, in which case you cover the dish with clingfilm once it’s cooled enough not to melt the clingfilm, and put it in the fridge right away. Ensure you let it come to room temperature before serving.