Ingredient of the Week: Rainier Cherries

I popped my cherry with Rainier cherries when I visited Seattle for the first time several years ago. Walking through Pike Place Market, I came across a fruit stand that sold mounds of these cherries that were, to me at the time, strangely colored. Of course, I had to buy a bag, and when I bit into my first Rainier cherry, I fell in love. It was the best, sweetest cherry I'd ever tasted, and it was yet another item to add to my Seattle-envy list. That is, until I discovered they sold them right here in Houston in the summertime.

What is it?

Developed in 1952 at Washington State University by cross-breeding Bing with Van cherries, Rainier cherries were named for Mount Rainier, the Washington state landmark. These cherries have a yellow flesh that is creamy and tender in texture, and they are sweeter than their black and red cousins. Their skin tends to be pink to yellow. Considered the creme de la creme of cherries, Rainier cherries are also more expensive than other cherries--sometimes selling for as much as a dollar each in Japan--due to not only their deliciousness but also the fact that they're finicky fruit, and their season is extremely short (only in July, give or take a few weeks, depending on weather conditions).

How do I use it?

Obviously, the best way to eat Rainier cherries would be fresh, in their original form: just wash and eat. But if you want to get a little creative, try using them in any recipe for which you'd normally use any other cherry: pie, crumble, cobbler, muffin, cake.

Where can I find it?

Costco sells two-pound boxes for $9.49. Hurry while they're still in season.

Recipe: Mt. Rainier Ice Cream

This recipe from Elizabeth Barrette's food blog is a white chocolate ice cream with a mix-in of Rainier cherries. Ghirardelli Sublime White Vanilla Dream White Chocolate is the brand of white chocolate recommended. Who needs Ben & Jerry's when you've got a pint of Rainier cherries and an ice cream maker?

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