I'm back ... did you miss me? No? Didn't know I was gone? That's okay ...
I was away for the weekend, drinking my way through San Francisco. I'll show pictures later in the week!
But first ....
Black cherry jam with sheep's cheese is a Basque tradition that deserves to be honored. And after reading about it in the L.A. Times, I fully intended to honor it buy purchasing a nice frenchy ewe's cheese from Monsieur Marcel after snatching a tiny jar of black cherry confit ($9) from the deli counter.
But then I laid eyes on the Cowgirl Creamery MT TAM Triple-Cream cheese ($15) and, well ... screw you tradition, because in the face of an extraordinary cheese, you lose. And guess what? When I was eating my black-cherry confit and triple-cream cheese on a sliced up La Brea bakery baguette, do you think I even noticed that I was not eating sheep's cheese? Do you think I for even one second paused to think "Well, this triple-cream is good, but the nuttiness of a ewe's cheese would be ever so much more enjoyable?" Damn right, I didn't. Not even a little bit.
MT TAM is a deliciously spreadable creamy cheese made from organic milk from the Straus family dairy. It is "firm, yet buttery with a mellow earthy flavor reminiscent of white mushrooms." To my mind the earthy cheesiness of it went just fine with the dark sweetness of the cherries. By the way, MT TAM won first place at the American Cheese Society competition. The cheese comes from Point Reyes, CA and is made from pasteurized milk with vegetarian, microbial rennet. It pairs well with Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir or Syrah.
And what is this confit? The word "confit" comes from the French verb "confire," meaning "to preserve," or "to conserve." It was first used in medieval times to describe fruits cooked in sugar or honey to preserve them and has since been applied to meats as well.
Meat confits are meats preserved in their own fat. This is usually seen with duck, these days. The duck is macerated in herbs and salt, cooked in a savory broth or fat and then perserved in rendered fat. Nowadays we might associate a duck confit with snooty French haute cuisine, but the method originated with peasants as a means to store meat without refrigeration.
Fruit confits are fruits or pieces of fruit preserved in sugar. The fruit has to be completely infused with the sugar, down to its very core, which means that it can take a very long time to prepare a larger fruit using this method. Generally only smaller fruits, such as cherries are commonly preserved in confits.
I purchased my cherry confit, but to make your own sweet confit, simply throw two cups of water, two cups of sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 vanilla bean (split) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it hits a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for around two minutes. Then add 1 pound of fresh cherries, pitted and simmer until the mixture is thick and the cherries are soft, about one hour. Add more water if needed. Pour into a clean container and refrigerate until ready to use.
There are also recipes for savory cherry confits out there on the internet, generally paired with duck or other meat recipes.
Posted by KT at 1:30 AM