Oriana Kruszewski may be best known as the Asian Pear lady at Chicago’s Green City Market, but she’s got lots of other rare-fruit know-how—and if you’re lucky–the actual fruit, too. Take Cornelian cherries for example. She first learned of them from a friend at Midwest Fruit Explorers—a backyard fruit-growers club, who showed her the shiny, elongated fruit he’d grown from seeds a certain Father Aloysius A. Kuenzig had collected from the Crimean Peninusula in the former Soviet Union (what is now the Ukraine.)
Oriana was so impressed with the deep, red fruit’s almost cranberry-like flavor, she grew a Cornelian cherry tree in her Skokie backyard. This year was a bad one for pears (the warm March coaxed blossoms out too soon ruining Oriana’s entire Winslow, IL crop) but it was Oriana’s best year yet for the cherries. She’s harvested 50 pounds from one tree. Stop by her booth at Chicago’s Green City Market or e-mail her to see if she has any left to make into jam to top these tea muffins. If not? This 1940’s not-too-sweet recipe is delicious baked with regular sour cherry jam.
Makes One dozen muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp pure cane sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 12 tsp Cornelian cherry, or sour cherry, jam
Cornelian Cherry Jam Ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups Cornelian cherries
- 1 cup sugar
- Make Cornelian Jam: Work with very ripe fruit. Mash fruit, pits still in, until the cherries release some juice. Add sugar and dissolve, stirring over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly, stirring occasionally and cook cherries until thick and jammy–about 15 to 20 minutes. Pour jam into a sieve. Cool slightly and push as much through sieve as possible. Pick out and throw away pips from the fruit still in the sieve. Break up any large pieces of cherry. Combine with the rest of the jam.
- Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease 12-muffin muffin tin. (2 1/2″ muffin size)
- Measure dry ingredients into a sifter and sift together into a medium bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whip egg with milk until frothy; Add melted shortening.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients; add liquid and stir quickly and lightly until just combined (Dough will be lumpy and pretty stiff.)
- Spoon batter into muffin tin depressions to about 2/3 full. Create a well in the middle of each muffin and fill with a teaspoon of cherry jam.
- Bake at 425 for 25 minutes until golden brown. Be careful to cool muffins slightly–hot jam can burn. Serve with melted butter and a cup of hot tea!