Warm fruit desserts made with summer's tart cherries

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

If you lived in Michigan you would know that Traverse City is known as the ''Cherry Capital'' of the nation. Traditionally, a huge cherry festival is held during the middle of July, when the ruby, tart cherries are at their peak. The festival attracts about 400,000 visitors, all of them eager to sample the good, down-to-earth food - most of which features cherries.

Even if you're not a Michigan resident, you, too, can enjoy sour cherries either fresh, frozen, or canned.

Here is a delicious variation of the familiar cherry pie the way we bake it in Michigan. Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Pastry for 2-crust, 9-inch pie 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 cups chopped rhubarb 2 cups pitted, sour cherries 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring 2 tablespoons butter

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Line pie pan with pastry. In a large bowl lightly mix together flour, rhubarb , cherries, sugar, and almond flavoring. Pour into pie pan. Dot with butter.

Cover with pastry, pinch edges together, and prick top several times with a fork.

Bake at 425 degrees F. 45 to 50 minutes. Sour Cherry Kuchen 1/2 cup butter or margarine 3/4 cup sugar 1 egg 1/2 cup sour milk or buttermilk 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 2 cups fresh, pitted sour cherries 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In large bowl cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir in sour milk and vanilla. Mix flour with baking powder and baking soda and add to creamed mixture, stirring just until all is moistened.

Spread batter in greased, floured, 9-inch-square pan. Mix cherries with sugar and cinnamon and spread over batter.

Bake in 350-degree F. oven 45 minutes or until it tests done with toothpick. Serve with whipped topping if desired. Serves 8. Old-Fashioned Cherry Slump 2 cups biscuit mix 4 cups pitted sour cherries 1 1/4 cups sugar 1/2 cup water 1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring

Prepare biscuit dough, roll to 1/2-inch thickness, cut into 2-inch circles. Mix cherries, sugar, water, and almond flavoring in saucepan. Heat slowly to a boil.

Place biscuits on boiling mixture, cover, and cook over low heat 15 minutes. Remove biscuits (they'll be like feathery dumplings) and serve the cherry mixture over them, topping with whipped cream.

Good either hot or cold. Serves 6 to 8. Quick Cherry Crisp 2 cups pitted sour cherries 1 cup sugar 1 stick butter or margarine 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Mix 1/2 cup sugar with cherries and spread over bottom of a buttered baking dish or pan. Mix remaining sugar and flour together, cut in butter. Fold in nuts.

Spread over cherries, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Bake 35 minutes at 400 degrees F. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or topping. Serves 6. Cherry Tea Bread 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup light brown sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 cup melted butter or oil 3/4 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup pitted sour cherries 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder together in mixing bowl. Mix together butter, milk, vanilla, and eggs. Add to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir in cherries and nuts. Pour into 9-by-5-inch greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. 50 minutes. Mama's Sour Cherry Marmalade 6 cups pitted sour cherries 3 cups sugar 2 cups water Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange 1/2 cup orange and lemon rind strips, cut very thin with white removed

Mix cherries, sugar, and water in large pan. Simmer 15 minutes. Add juice and rinds. Continue at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, until a sheet forms when dropped on a cold saucer from a spoon. Remove from heat, stir to distribute fruit, let cool a few minutes. Pour into sterilized jars; seal or cover with melted paraffin. Makes 4 half-pints. Heritage Cherry Soup 3/4 cup sugar 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1 1/2 cups water 1 cup orange juice 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 4 cups pitted sour cherries Sour cream for garnish, optional

Combine all ingredients except cherries, bring to a simmer, and stir until thickened. Add cherries, stir, and cook 2 minutes. Chill.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

You can use pitted sweet cherries in the above recipes, using 1/2 less sugar and adding 1 teaspoon lemon juice per cup of cherries. Canned or frozen cherries may be used instead of fresh. Drain well before using.

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