In Heaven there are Cherry Trees

My brother, many, many years ago.

In Heaven, there are cherry trees.

I know this. There just have to be. Every summer afternoon spent up in my grandma’s cherry tree was a little bit of Heaven. The still, dusty, oppressive heat of the Sacramento Valley would retreat under the shade of the old, wizened tree. I’d scramble up the trunk and sit on my favorite branch, kicking my legs with their perpetually skinned knees as I gathered a bucket’s worth of cherries and consumed another bucket’s worth.

That first taste of a summer-ripe cherry brings me back to those long-gone June afternoons. For the moments that I’m savoring that sweet, plump fruit, I’m a kid again – sitting high in a tree and having pit-spitting contests with my brother and sister. Cherries are one of the reasons that I love June. Though the month may blindside you with a few triple digit days, it always makes up for it in the sweetness of its fruit.

Pork Chops with Brandied Cherry Sauce

Serves: 4

15 ounces of cherries

2 rounded spoonfuls sugar

4 large, boneless center-cut pork chops

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped

Splash of brandy

1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably from your own freezer

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Put cherries in a small bowl with the sugar.

Heat a skillet with an oven safe handle over medium high to high heat.

Season chops with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to a hot skillet. Place chops in skillet and sear meat on both sides to caramelize the chops. Place a loose tin foil tent over the pan and transfer the chops to oven to finish off, 7 or 8 minutes, until meat is firm to touch, but not tough.

Remove meat from oven and transfer to dinner plates. Cover chops with foil to keep warm. Place chop skillet back on stove over medium heat. Add a tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. Add shallots and sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Add cherries and warm through. Add brandy, then add stock. Reduce stock a minute, then add butter in small pieces. Toss sauce to combine and sprinkle in mint. Pour sauce down over chops.

Adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe

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