A slightly cool summer morning recently found me in the garden at Cow Hill Cottage checking on the progress of the forthcoming bean crop as well as keeping the weeds at bay. The quality of the light and sounds and aromas that surrounded me transported me back to my childhood and memories of my maternal grandmother “Nan” as she was known to her grandchildren.
A talented farm wife, mother, and cook, Nan’s home was always open to welcome one and all, and her kitchen was never found to be bare of some delicious offering. This particular summer morning my thoughts were drawn to memories of Nan’s Cherry Pudding made with ripe sour cherries and served with milk and sugar, which was my grandfather’s approach to most desserts, including fruit-filled Jell-O, if you can believe it.
Nan’s Cherry Pudding recipe was passed down through her family—the Kellys—hailing from the Walnut, Nook, and Half Moon areas of Juniata County. Although I have found that the tradition of Cherry Pudding and other fruit-filled puddings to be commonplace within Central Pennsylvania, my real surprise is the origin of the recipe—a French recipe—that I came upon while researching desserts for my original restaurant some years ago.
The simple recipe that follows is a part of the food tradition of the former Limousin region of France. Known for its rich farming history and a variety of oak harvested from its bucolic forests that is used to make barrels for the aging of brandy, Limousin is located in the south-central area of France, and its Clafoutis (Kla-foo-TEE) has been a classic dessert of the region for hundreds of years.
Purist insist that a true Clafoutis is made from only cherries—and un-pitted ones at that—as they believe the pits impart an improved cherry flavor throughout the dessert. The dessert is traditionally served warm with a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar over the top as the pudding is removed from the oven. Although similar desserts are made with other fresh summer fruits, the proud people of Limousin would consider these non-cherry varieties to be a Flaugnarde (a baked French dessert resembling a large pancake) and not a true Clafoutis.
No matter what you call it, or if you subscribe to the pitted or un-pitted cherries, I believe you will agree that it is a perfect summer dessert and one of the many pleasures in a simple life well lived.
I have shared two recipes below for your enjoyment. The first is my family’s Cherry Pudding, and the second is a traditional Clafoutis. Please feel free to add to this culinary story with your comments and observations.
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Melted Shortening
1 Cup Milk
3 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Quart Pitted Sour Cherries or Other Fruit of Your Choice
Soften butter to grease the baking dish.
Mix all ingredients and pour into a well-greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the pudding comes out clean.
Serve with powdered sugar or sugar and milk.
1 Pound of Cherries
½ Cup Sugar
1 Cup Flour
4 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1 Pinch Salt
1 Cup Milk
2 Tablespoons Butter (to grease the pan)
3 Tablespoons Sugar (for the garnish)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Remove the cherry stems.
Grease a round 10-inch pan with butter and arrange the cherries.
In a bowl, cream the sugar and eggs. Then add the flour and salt. Stir in melted butter. Then pour the milk and stir to obtain a light and smooth dough. Pour the mixture over the cherries.
Bake the Clafoutis for 40 minutes.
Sprinkle with sugar as you take the Clafoutis out of the oven.
Serve warm or cold.