I also got it into my head that these particular fritters could be great with a sauce of more sour cherries, simmered in red wine and a vaguely medieval combination of spices, the inspiration for which is now apparent in my emails from around that time: a friend was going to a christening and we'd wondered whether the baby might be wearing one of those very long, vaguely medieval-looking gowns. I discovered this while rummaging Gmail to see whether I'd told anyone about the sauce in detail such that I might be able to reconstruct it this summer. Regrettably I can't tell you the proportions, but I see that I simmered the cherries in a syrup of rosé and sugar flavored with cinnamon and white pepper, a delicious combination ideal for spooning over ice cream. I had to content myself with eating it that way because I didn't manage to make any fritters that summer at all — I made the sauce without delay, but when I went back to the farmers' market for fritter supplies there were no more sour cherries to be found. Fritter-free summer No. 1 down the tubes.
Last summer came and went and I missed sour cherry season entirely, probably because I was busy screwing around. I wasn't going to let it happen again this year and I finally made the fritters. It's possible I'm biased but I think they were worth the wait. If you're a U.S. reader you probably won't find sour cherries in the market now, but if you're a long-range dessert-planner like me, bookmark this recipe and make yourself a lovely dessert in summer 2014 or so. Or try it now with regular cherries, which are more likely to still be available. I'm sure they'd be nearly as tasty.
I departed from both recipes on frying instructions. Both call for deep-frying, which didn't seem necessary to me, and neither calls for lard, which I wanted to use. Yes, lardy old lard. Health-wise it's not as diabolical as it's made out to be, and in baking and frying it performs beautifully. Here, go read this if you're not convinced. I'd baked with it a couple times but somehow hadn't gotten around to frying anything in it yet, and my sour cherry fritters that were two years in the making seemed like as good an occasion as any to try it. There are great big tubs of lard for sale in East Harlem supermarkets ("manteca de cerdo" en Español) but they look pretty industrial, and I wanted to be sure of getting leaf lard (the highest grade) from not-industrial pigs, so I bought mine from Dickson's Farmstand Meats. Harlem Shambles is nearer to me and probably has nice lard too — it looks like they're using it in their pasties — but I frequently have doctor appointments round the corner from Chelsea Market so Dickson's it is. NYC readers can also find leaf lard at Union Square greenmarket, among other places, but I'm not certain it's rendered. Anyhow, the lard was magical for frying fritters. I almost never fry at home because it tends to stink up the place and, probably because I almost never do it, I seem to have a hard time keeping the temperature under control. I used maybe 1/2" of lard in a medium-sized copper pan and it gave me no trouble whatsoever. The fritters were excitingly crisp around the edges, cooked evenly all the way through, and didn't taste porcine. (I'm not sure if would have lessened them if they had; I'm just saying).
sour cherry and caraway fritters
Adapted from Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking and Thomas Keller's apple fritters, as described above.
Yield: approximately 15 fritters
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 heaping teaspoon ground caraway seeds, preferably toasted before grinding
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup or so milk (buttermilk would probably be great if you have some, or beer)
2 cups pitted sour cherries
leaf lard for frying, or a neutral-tasting oil if you're not into lard
confectioners' sugar for serving (optional)
Thoroughly combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together the egg yolks and the milk in a smaller bowl. In a third bowl — sorry! — beat the egg whites until stiff. Stir the milk and yolks into the dry ingredients and, when blended, fold in the egg whites. Then add the cherries, stirring gently just until they're integrated. If the batter looks dry, add a splash more milk. Drop spoonfuls of the batter into hot fat and fry for approximately two to three minutes on each side, or until they're nicely browned. Let the fritters rest on paper towels for a few moments before serving, with another layer of toweling on top to absorb some of the grease. Dust with confectioners' sugar if you like.
The fritters are best when fresh but can be refrigerated and reheated in a 350°F oven for ten minutes or so.