Queenie Cooks: Quick Cherry Crunch

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: March 23, 2019 | 8:05 a.m.

I recently had a freezer-related catastrophe.  You know the one I mean.  When you open the freezer door and everything is a big ole melty mess?  Yuck!

Actually, it wouldn’t have been that big a deal, as I’d nearly emptied it over the winter in preparation for the soon-to-come fresh produce. And the only thing wrong with the freezer itself was that the door hadn’t been closed properly (don’t ask) which I remedied by, well, properly closing the door.  What elevated the event to disaster level was that my last few carefully hoarded packages of frozen sour cherries which I had picked, pitted, and saved from the trees down at the farm were ruined.  

I use those for cherry cobblers and, on the rare years when the trees really produce, I even put them in my favorite dessert – Sour Cherry Crunch.  Fortunately, it’s absolutely delicious when made with canned tart cherries, so, I may be out of luck on cobblers for now, but ever since I first discovered the recipe years ago, I’ve generally used the canned ones anyway.  

Fresh cherries are great for cobblers, but for this quick cherry crunch use canned, water-packed ones for scrumptious tart cherry flavor – in minutes!

I actually found this perfect quick dessert recipe many years ago in an early version of The Joy of Cooking. I have it pretty much memorized now, and, of course, I occasionally play with it a bit – adding some chocolate chips for a chocolate cherry crunch, for example. But mostly I make it just as it appeared in that early, seldom-used but never forgotten edition. And it really is my go-to recipe any time I need something special in a hurry. Because besides being truly delicious, with only a can of tart cherries and a few common ingredients I can go from craving to consuming a wonderful Quick Cherry Crunch in about 35 minutes. And after today, so can you!

And, by the way, you get to feel all virtuous as you cook with tart cherries as they contain natural antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents and supposedly can be effective in anything from cancer prevention to heart health to the alleviation of arthritis pain and asthma. Now I’m wondering if (and hoping that) this might mean that I could legitimately claim one of my favorite desserts as health food? As a matter of fact, they’re Montmorency Cherries, introduced to the US from France in the 1800s, so perhaps I could even call it French cooking?  Hmmmm… (Don’t judge me!)  No, actually, this is just a real “homey” tasting comfort food as far as I’m concerned, and when you add a bit of vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream?  Nirvana!!!

Anyway, getting back to the actual preparation, the most important thing to remember is that you do NOT want to use cherry pie filling. Nope.  Just look for plain “Tart Cherries in water.”  And as long as you keep a can of those, some brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, and baking powder on hand, you’re always good to go.  

Actually, I dragged out my old copy of The Joy this time for old times’ sake and flipped to page 662, which is so spattered from long and frequent use that it’s a good thing I have it memorized. Happy thoughts just flooded my mind of times when I’ve shared this with family and special friends through the years.  I like to use the dried tapioca in the juice, but you can substitute flour in a pinch. It won’t be quite as crunchy, but it shortens the preparation time even more since you don’t have to wait for the initial tapioca-soaking step, and it’s every bit as tasty. And you won’t believe how heavenly the house will smell as it cooks!  

The tart, red cherries peeking through the brown sugar crunch will have your friends begging for the recipe – and your family begging for more!

This really is the best recipe I know for a simple cherry dessert – or most any dessert, for that matter.  You just basically mix together the melted butter and the dry ingredients, spread half the mixture on the bottom of a buttered pan, sprinkle the treated cherries with either the juice with flour or tapioca, top with the rest of the mixture, and bake.  It’s delicious hot or cold, plain or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve tried it – and loved it – with some chocolate chips baked in as a central layer, and I can’t deny that the gooey, melty chocolate deliciousness is pretty incredible.  But honestly, the tart sweetness of this Quick Cherry Crunch right by itself is pretty hard to beat.

So with fresh, tart cherries soon to be in bloom, if you can find them (and beat the birds to them!) I heartily recommend making fresh cherry cobbler during that brief heavenly time when they’re available. But for an unforgettable tart cherry taste treat that’s easy, easy, easy, just do what I do; keep a couple of cans of pitted sour cherries packed in water in the cabinet at all times and you’re good to go! Enjoy! 

Quick Cherry Crunch

Butter a nine inch square baking dish. Preheat oven to 350.

Mix and let stand 15 minutes:

  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tart cherries packed in water – NOT cherry pie filling.  (May substitute 2 cups fresh – or frozen, thawed – sour cherries,  including juice  
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons quick tapioca* or all purpose flour

Melt 1/2 Cup butter.

Mix in:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 Cups brown sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup uncooked Old-Fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon each – baking powder, salt, and baking soda

Put half the flour mixture into the bottom of dish.  Scatter cherries and juice over it. Cover fruit with the other half of flour/oatmeal mixture.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot or cold, plain or with ice cream.  

*If using tapioca, let it sit in ½ cup of the cherry juice for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest.

OPTIONAL:  May sprinkle chocolate chips in with cherries. 

Look for Queenie Cooks every week online and in the Sussex Surry Dispatch and other local papers  for food-related recipes, stories, information, and fun.  You never know what Queenie may be cooking up, but you can always count on at least one great recipe to try at home, generally for something you can prepare quickly, easily, and with just a  few, common ingredients. Hey!   We all have to eat. Let’s have some FUN with it!

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