A GLORIOUS Happy New Year to all the devoted Citizens of TFD Nation – today is the 9th anniversary of the Blog and I have posted a total of 1,390 recipes (probably more like 1,370 taking out update posts) and 1,227,601 words before embarking on this latest culinary sojourn! As is my wont at the end of the year, I like to post festive flaming recipes to allow the lights of joy to be reflected in the eyes of My readers! Today is no exception – behold the old-school glory that ALONE is cherries jubilee!
This happens to be one of My favorite flaming dessert recipes – right up there with crepes Suzette, flaming Hanukkah pudding and flaming German mulled wine! I never neglect to take the opportunity to enjoy this 19th century elder statesman of French dessert domination – sadly, it has been relegated these days to old-school steakhouses and Continental-style restaurants that share the pyromantic fervor of their demanding patrons! Sadly, there is little documented history on this dessert – but here it is!
As noted in this lightly-edited excerpt from cookinfo.com:
Cherries Jubilee is a dessert – it is basically a cherry sauce over vanilla ice cream.
Pitted cherries are poached in a sugar and water syrup, with cherry brandy added (some say plain brandy), then flamed, and served over vanilla ice cream. It is often prepared in a chafing dish because it’s usually flamed at the table in restaurants. When flamed, it can be a spectacular presentation. The dessert became considered passé and kitsch because it was served at so many group dinners and in so many restaurants, and the quality became debased with the use of canned cherries instead of fresh.
Cherries Jubilee was in theory invented for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 celebrations by Georges-Auguste Escoffier. In his book, “Memories of My Life”, a footnote identifies the occasion for the creation as the Golden Jubilee.
His original version didn’t have ice cream. In his “Le Guide Culinaire”, 1903, he also listed a recipe called “Cerises Jubilee.” This called for Kirsch, but no still ice cream. He also said that instead of making a simple syrup, red currant jelly could be used, or, he says, the simple syrup can be thickened with cornstarch or arrowroot. In fact, though, of course, cherries poached in a simple syrup, with no alcohol in them, and unflamed, existed well before any of all this, served in a dish without ice cream.
Cherries Jubilee was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, which was the rise of many great Continental restaurants and steak houses, all of whom flocked to the recipe after Julia Child showcased it on her TV show to National acclaim.
Additional perspective on the dessert may be found at escoffier.edu:
A beloved dessert with little known heritage, Auguste Escoffier is credited with the invention of Cherries Jubilee.
Based on her love of cherries, it’s said that Escoffier created this sweet and sour treat as a tribute to Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897. However, it has evolved throughout time as it’s original preparation included poaching the cherries in simple syrup and pouring warm brandy over them. The famed flame, however, has always been a staple!
Cherries Jubilee may be only one of Escoffier’s trademark dishes, but it’s popular enough to command it’s own ‘day’. Yes, September 24th is National #CherriesJubileeDay.
Below is the original recipe as written by Auguste Escoffier in ‘Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery’
Stone some fine cherries; poach them in syrup, and set them in small silver timbales. Reduce the syrup and thicken it with a little arrowroot, diluted with cold water; allowing one table-spoonful of arrowroot per half-pint of syrup. Cover the cherries with the thickened syrup; pour a coffee-spoonful of heated Kirsch into each timbale, and set a light to each when serving.
Sadly, so few restaurants do this recipe justice! Two places I have been to that get it 100% right are The Golden Steer Steakhouse in Vegas and Hy’s Steakhouse in Honolulu – this was the version I sampled at Hy’s immediately after the Pandemic travel restrictions lifted in June 0f 2021:
The molten-hot Cherries and their divine elixir are poured over ice-cold vanilla ice cream to form a dichotomous mix of icy and hot temperatures, melded with sharp alcohol, citrus and rich cream. All of these are harmonized through the dynamic tension of tart cherry, while a contemplative abstract of blood red and arctic white colors swirl in the bowl. Truly, there are few recipes that can contend with, let alone surpass it as a feast of the senses!
…except MY version, of course!
Yes, I am sufficiently confident in My own Divinely-granted gifts to say without hesitation – My version is BETTER than Escoffier’s! Call Me arrogant, call Me demented, call Me what you like – but you WILL call on Me at the very summit of the culinary Olympus, where I alone stand SUPREME! Life may just be a bowl of cherries – but when that bowl is cherries jubilee, it is proof positive there is a benevolent Deity watching over His children and that life can indeed be an experience of rapturous bliss!
Here are a few interesting facts I discovered about cherries!
- National Cherries Jubilee Day is observed annually on September 24. Smitten with this simply elegant dessert, cherry lovers celebrate National Cherries Jubilee Day with delight.
- This show-stopping flambéed dish is credited to the famous chef, Auguste Escoffie, who created it for the 1897 Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria.
- The cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy stone fruit.
- The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species, including especially cultivars of the wild cherry, Prunus avium.
- It is believed that the sweet cherry originated in the area between the Black and Caspian Seas in Asia Minor around 70 B.C. The Romans introduced them to Britain in the first century A.D.
- The English colonists brought cherries to North America in the 1600’s.
- The word ‘cherry’ comes from the French word ‘cerise,’ which in turn comes from the Latin words cerasum and Cerasus, the classical name of the modern city Giresun in Turkey.
- Records indicate that cherries were a prized food in a region of China dating back to 600 BC – fit for royalty and cherished by locals.
- There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States, but fewer than 10 are produced commercially.
- On average, there are about 44 cherries in one pound.
- In an average crop year, a sweet cherry tree will produce 800 cherries.
- While they have long been a popular dessert fruit, cherries were used for their medicinal purposes in the 15th and 16th centuries.
- Despite the short fruiting season, Americans consume an average of 1.5 pounds of cherries each year.
- The world’s heaviest cherry was grown by Gerardo Maggipinto (Italy) and weighed 0.76 oz on June 21, 2003.
Now that the truth has been shared, let’s progress onwards to My version of a century-old classic recipe!
First off – if you even DARE to think of using neon-red Maraschino cherries that grace a Shirley Temple – you are DEAD to me.
Only two kinds of cherries are worthy to be indulged in this dessert of desserts – the first are tart cherries (aka Montmorency).
The Montmorency cherry is a variety of sour cherry grown in Europe, Canada, United States , particularly in the Grand Traverse Bay region of Northwest Michigan, Door County, Wisconsin and parts of Indian Administered Kashmir. Montmorency cherries are part of the lighter-red Amarelle cultivar of sour cherries, rather than the darker-red Morello cultivar. Michigan produces over 90,000 tons of Montmorency cherries each year.
The tree is named for Montmorency, a suburb of Paris, France. It produces large, light red fruit (although some trees produce a darker red fruit) and has been cultivated in the United States since at least the early 20th century. It is the most popular sour cherry in the United States and Canada, and is extensively used in cherry pies, as well as in jams and preserves. Montmorency cherries are also marketed in dried form, and Montmorency cherry juice and juice concentrate are also sold.
If you are making this recipe out of season, you can happily and easily purchase them frozen and de-pitted from this fine source in Michigan.
Despite my previous sternly-worded warning about using Maraschino cherries – I need to clarify that there are TWO kinds, and one abrogates My rule.
The hideous, chemical-laden Maraschino version you find stuck on a hot fudge sundae is totally different from the ORIGINAL Maraschino, today produced mostly in Italy and Croatia. These original cherries look and taste nothing like the candied imposters from the supermarket – they are darker, far richer and possessed of a nobility that you can’t begin to imagine until you’ve tasted the real deal! Buy them from here.
You will need tart cherry juice to form the backbone of the sauce – mercifully, a superb version may be purchased from Amazon here. Like the mighty Escoffier, I too specify currant jelly in the sauce to add a sweet and tart backbone to the sauce – buy it from here.
As the Sorcerer of Spice, I weave a spell of captivation when it comes to using rare flavors, extracts and more in My cooking – this recipe is no exception and the source of the Divine benison I am bestowing upon you and yours by sharing My sublime recipe!
Mahlab is a spice used extensively in Middle-Eastern cuisine that is made from ground cherry pits – it provides a mysterious flavor that is a bit like cherries, a bit like roses, and a bit like almonds – there’s a hint of vanilla as well. I use it to great aplomb in My recipe to bring it to harmonious perfection – buy it here.
In addition to the classic cherry brandy used to flame it (known as Kirschwasser, buy a good local brand using Montmorency cherries here) and Grand Marnier, I also ascribe to the heterodoxical, anarchistic addition of one other liqueur! Specifically, a touch of the potent centuries-old ancestor to green Chartreuse known as Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse! Distilled from 130+ secret herbs, spices and other botanicals known only to two aged Monks, this adds a mysterious complexity to offset sweetness.
It’s history is the stuff of epic legend! In 1605, the duc d’Éstrées entrusted the Carthusians with a manuscript containing a mysterious recipe composed of 130 plants which could be used to produce an “elixir of long life.” For over one and a half centuries, the Carthusians worked to perfect this recipe, which resulted, thanks to Brother Jérôme Maubec, in a final product established in 1764 called the “Élixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse.”
It was rapidly distributed to the local populations during plague years. Brother Charles was the first to sell it at the local markets, riding down from the monastery on a donkey. The recipe for the élixir has remained unchanged ever since 1764. Production of the élixir Végétal takes several weeks and includes three stages: distillation to obtain the aroma, maceration, which gives the natural color, and extraction to recover the beneficial properties from the 130 plants, flowers, bark, roots and spices.
Buy it here.
Lastly, I call for a mix of dark brown sugar and Maraschino cherry juice in place of regular white sugar for additional flavor depth and I always use vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract, as the flavor is FAR richer!
My preferred brand of vanilla paste is this one, easily purchased on Amazon. Only one commercial ice cream works in this dish, IMHO – that’s Haagen-Dasz vanilla BEAN ice cream – the vanilla bean version is far superior to the regular vanilla. Failing that, go with the best artisinal vanilla bean ice cream you can find.
Citizens, despite all the sturm und drang surrounding this storied recipe, it’s actually VERY easy to make! Just like in the restaurants, this all comes together in a few minutes – if you can, CAREFULLY flame this in front of your guests and prepare to relish the accolades and demands for the recipe from your adoring friends and family! Whether you choose to share it with them, is – of course – your decision…but I’ll know if you claim it as your own. I don’t advise incurring My swift and righteous wrath!
This is what happened to the last unfortunate soul who tried THAT little stunt…note the flames of the industrial-sized Cherries Jubilee all around him! 😉
Battle on – the Generalissimo!Print
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