I haven’t spelt the title wrong. This isn’t a rant about rape, even though it’s a subject very much in the news as I write. (And even though I’m often inclined to rant about rape. With reason.)
No, the title’s a line from an old song called ‘Cherry ripe’.
The words go:
‘Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones come and buy’
I never felt that ‘Full and fair ones’ were quite the words to describe ripe cherries. Alice in Wonderland changed it to ‘Fools and fair ones come and buy’. I prefer that.
Whatever. The point is, ‘Cherry ripe’ has been in my head for days. Which is why I’ve resorted to writing this post. To winkle it out.
It started when I was thinking about how cold I was.
We’ve had hysterical degrees of warmth here lately.
[What’s that? Do I mean historical? No, I like hysterical, thank you. Call me Alice.]
On the rare occasions when it’s really warm here the air conditioning in our supermarkets is neither Arctic nor Antarctic in its bite. Unlike the aircon everywhere in Texas. But around the fruit and veg it’s different.
Buying avocadoes, strawberries, blueberries, pineapples, melons, peaches – anything with a tendency to need warmth to ripen – is a chilling experience.
The other day, I considered buying a pair of ‘ready to eat’ avocadoes. I picked them up. They were freezing cold and rock hard, yet the instructions read ‘best kept in the fridge’. I felt like throwing them at a wall to see which made a dent in which, the avos or the wall.
But I didn’t.
Icy cold, underripe fruit does not taste good. Yet in the depths of winter I see mums buying strawberries that I could tell them will not taste good. Will not be ripe. Will never ripen.
And then I think, how many youngsters have ever – ever – tasted a really ripe strawberry? Had that mmmmmph, ah, ooh, tastebud-enrapturing sensation it’s so hard to describe?
Or been amazed at a richly perfumed, ripe, jewel of a blackberry.
Or bitten into a peach so meltingly ripe that the juice runs freely and the flesh comes away from the stone when you look at it.
That last bit is an exaggeration.
I eat strawberries once the sun starts shining and the temperature starts rising somewhere reasonably nearby (ie, in Europe).
Around the time when our roses begin to bloom.
I eat peaches and raspberries in similar circumstances. Plums, greengages a little later.
But above all, I buy fruit such as strawberries, for eating as they are, from the greengrocer, not the supermarket.
[Which is not to say I never buy strawberries them from the supermarket. I do. If I’m (a) making frozen yogurt (of which more anon), or (b) feeling sorry for the Spanish farmers.]
Our greengrocer, an older man with a dodgy hip, is a character. It’s likely you’ll leave the shop laughing, after witnessing a performance that’s made an elderly lady reach the chuckling, ‘oh, go on with you, Eddy’ stage. And after you’ve patiently watched him help her out with her bag and her stick.
His shop is small and warm. His peaches, nectarines, strawberries, tomatoes, avocadoes are warm. They ripen. Some go off, yes, but that’s what fruit does. And you don’t have to buy it.
Yesterday he had a choice of three types of strawberry. One lot came from Scotland – they’re usually pretty good. One lot came from another county in England. One lot came from just down the road. You can guess which I bought.
Small, but ripe, they were delicious.
I also bought six Italian nectarines, because he was right out of peaches. I was planning a surprise for the resident dual citizen who’s recently back from Texas.
One of the stories I’ve been told on many occasions is how Tex would help his granddaddy churn ice cream, peach ice cream, in a hand churner that used salt and ice to freeze the mixture.
I never thought it sounded good. A shrug of the shoulders kind of flavour for an ice cream.
I mean, I’ll eat almost any flavour of ice cream but some you think were just a waste of what could have been a really good vanilla.
Now, though, I have an ice cream maker. I will experiment.
I’ve made pink grapefruit sorbet. Too delicious to risk making it often – and anyway, where are pink grapefruit when you need them?
Sweet potato ice cream. Just wrong. (We still ate it.)
Strawberry ice cream. Oooh yes!
Strawberry frozen yogurt. Oooh yes BUT lower in fat, so now a firm favourite.
Vanilla frozen yogurt. Love, love, love it.
And now, peach substitute, nectarine.
It’s gorgeous. Absolutely delicious.
Ripe. I try
Nectarine (or peach) frozen yogurt
Six ripe medium nectarines, skinned, de-stoned and cut into chunks
125 ml water
150 g sugar
240 g plain, unsweetened, full fat yogurt
Lemon – a little squeeze of the fresh thing
Put the nectarines in a pan with the water and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil then turn down to low simmer for ten minutes.
Cool, then liquidise with the yogurt. Doesn’t have to be totally lump free, texture is also good. Add a few drops of lemon juice. Put in refrigerator for couple of hours then churn or freeze in a plastic box, forking it every now and then as it freezes around the edges to break down the crystals and keep it as smooth as you can.
Then – enjoy.