If the state of Michigan is the Cherry Capital of the United States1, then the Montmorency is its president. A variety of Prunus cerasus, it is the most planted and harvested variety of sour cherry grown in Michigan. The Montmorency’s end use is typically processed—winding up canned or frozen, as well as in pie filling. Very little of the crop is sold fresh, a pity as some of us love the tart burst of flavor. However, the appearance of those sour Montmorencies in a homemade cherry pie does offer us some solace.
Despite being mostly found in pies, the Montmorency can be used in other recipes, as well as jams and preserves (sour cherry preserves are perhaps my very favorite). In parts of Eastern Europe, as well as Iran and Turkey, sour cherries, whether fresh or dried, find their way into various recipes. This makes sense, as Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia is thought to be where sour cherries came from. For example, Meggyleves, a marvelous sour cherry soup of Hungarian origin, is made with cherries (Morellos), sour cream, and sugar, perhaps accented with cinnamon; it makes a delicious light dinner on a warm summer day. Kompot wisni, a compote of sour cherries from Poland, is excellent over vanilla ice cream. Abaloo Polow is an Iranian dish of rice and sour cherries with a touch of saffron.
Interestingly, health buffs are also starting to appreciate the Montmorency. Today, you can purchase tart cherry extracts (in powdered form) in vitamin stores, with alleged benefits that include anti-inflammatory properties and the removal of free radicals from the body. Me, I just like the taste of cherries!
So, what is the origin of the name? It (Montmorency) comes from a French town (actually commune, a type of administrative unit) located about 10 miles (16 km) from Paris. I’m not sure why the cherry is named after a French place, though!