Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Red wine livens up this summer starter

Chilled fruit soups are popular in Central and Eastern Europe. One of the best known is Hungarian meggyleves (Cold Sour Cherry Soup). It’s traditionally made from sour cherries, cream, and sweet white wine (in Hungary, that often means Tokaji).

Here in the US, it can be hard to find fresh sour cherries. But sweet Bing cherries are in season now—and abundantly available. So we use them instead of sour cherries in our recipe. And to avoid making the soup too sweet, we replace Tokaji with a drier red wine.

The result? A refreshing summer starter with outstanding flavor. And one that can provide a fun change of pace at your next dinner party—especially since this is a dish that many people are not familiar with.

Your guests are sure to be impressed. So start practicing a modest bow. You’ll want to be prepared for their accolades.


Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Recipe: Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Years ago, we had an authentic recipe for this soup (one that required sour cherries and Tokaji wine). We made it several times—but then we lost the recipe. Bummer. So we were forced to rethink this dish, and came up with a new version.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because this recipe is actually better than the one we remember. It’s not “authentic,” though, so we call it Hungarian-Style.

The hardest part of preparing this dish is pitting the fresh cherries. You could also try making it with frozen cherries (which often are pre-pitted). We haven’t tried making it that way, but suspect it would work just fine.

Prep time (including the cherry pitting) is about 15 minutes. Cooking time adds another 10 minutes or so. And you want to make this soup a couple hours ahead of time so it has time to chill properly. (It’s actually pretty good warm, too, though we don’t serve it that way).

This recipe serves 6 as a first course.

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fresh sweet cherries (Bing cherries are our choice)
  • 2 cups red wine, preferably one with cherry and fruity notes (see Notes for suggestions)
  • 1½ cups sour cherry juice (may substitute water or sweet cherry juice; see Notes)
  • 2 or 3 pinches of salt (to taste)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • sugar to taste (probably about ¼ cup, but you may not need any at all; see Procedure)
  • lemon juice to taste (probably a tablespoon or so, but you may not need any; see Procedure)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
  • ½ to 1 cup yogurt, plus additional yogurt for garnish, if desired (to taste; may substitute sour cream)
  • reserved cherry halves for garnish (optional)
  • mint sprigs for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Wash the cherries. Pit and stem them (this is easiest to do with a cherry pitter, but if you don’t have one, cut them along the side with a knife and the pits should pop out). Reserve a handful of cherries for garnish.
  2. Add the pitted cherries to a 4-quart saucepan (preferably a stainless steel one) along with the wine, cherry juice, and salt. Bring to a boil. While the cherry mixture is heating, zest the lemon and add the zest to the pan.
  3. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and set a timer for 2 minutes. At the 2-minute mark, taste the mixture. Add more salt if needed. If the mixture seems too sour, add sugar. If it’s too sweet, add lemon juice. You are aiming for a taste that is just slightly sweet.
  4. Continue simmering the mixture for another 8 minutes or so (for a total of about 10 minutes). Add black pepper if using, then taste the soup. Add more salt, sugar, and/or lemon juice if necessary. Remove the mixture from the heat.
  5. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup to the consistency of your preference (we prefer it slightly chunky; see Notes).
  6. If the soup seems thin, thicken it with cornstarch: Spoon 3 tablespoons of cornstarch into a small bowl, then add 4 tablespoons of cold water or red wine. Whisk the mixture together, then whisk it into the soup.
  7. Let the soup cool (we often pour the soup into a medium-sized bowl, then place the bowl in a larger container filled with ice and water). When the soup reaches room temperature (or cooler), whisk in yogurt or sour cream to taste (we generally use ½ to 1 cup, but you could add even more if you wish; note that adding dairy will lighten the color of the soup somewhat). Whisk the soup until the yogurt is thoroughly incorporated.
  8. Chill the soup in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, whisk the soup to re-incorporate all the ingredients (some of the yogurt may have separated). Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, if desired. For additional garnish, use the reserved cherries (cut into halves) or sprigs of mint. Or use any combo thereof. Serve.
Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Notes
  • Which wine to use in this dish? The best choice is a somewhat fruity red, preferably one with notes of cherry. Some pinot noirs have these characteristics. A nice Beaujolais-Villages would be fruity, although it might not have the cherry notes that would be ideal. When in doubt, we always ask our local wine merchant. For this soup, he recommended an Italian Barbera from the Asti region (and it was perfect).
  • Which reminds us: It’s really worth finding a good wine store where the staff knows their stuff. Having a reliable one nearby has certainly made our lives simpler.
  • Do note that even though you're cooking the wine, some residual alcohol will remain. Not very much, but some is there. 
  • Don’t want to use wine? Check out this recipe from Lizzy at Good Things. Lizzy has Hungarian ancestry, so you know it’s good stuff. 
  • You can substitute water for cherry juice in this recipe, but the soup won’t have as much flavor. BTW, if you use a cherry juice that’s sweetened, you almost certainly will not need to add sugar. 
  • Traditionally, this dish is flavored with cinnamon and cloves. We think that gives the soup too “wintry” a flavor for warm weather, so we skip them. But if the idea appeals to you, drop a few cloves and a stick of cinnamon into the pan as the soup simmers. Be sure to fish them out before you purée the soup. 
  • Black pepper is not a traditional ingredient in this dish, BTW. But it adds a bit of savor that we find irresistible. 
  •  Lemon juice helps temper the sweetness of the Bing cherries, which is why we suggest using it in this soup. You could also try substituting balsamic vinegar. We haven’t tried this, but suspect it would work well. 
  • We like to use yogurt in this soup (particularly Greek yogurt). But sour cream works too. The traditional version of this soup often is made with sweet cream—but we don’t recommend using that in this particular recipe (it’s better to use yogurt or sour cream, which can help moderate the sweetness of Bing cherries). Nonetheless, if the idea of sweet cream appeals to you, give it a try—you may enjoy it (and it might make a great dessert soup served that way). 
  • When using an immersion blender in this soup, make sure to use one with a stainless steel shaft—plastic ones can crack in the hot liquid. Ask us how we know. 
  • If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender. Blend the soup in fairly small batches (don’t fill the blender jar more than half full). 
  • If you add too much hot liquid to a blender jar, you’ll risk blowing the top off (again, ask us how we know). You can also just wait until the soup cools completely before blending it. 
  • As noted above, we like a fairly chunky texture for this soup. If you prefer a very smooth texture, whirl the soup (in batches) in a food processor. Then force it through a fine mesh strainer. 
  • Some versions of this soup use stemmed cherries with their pits (cherry pits have loads of flavor). This isn’t something we’ve tried, but if you’re interested, you could skip pitting the cherries and just cook them whole. In that case, we suggest cooking the soup a bit longer (and, of course, don’t blend it). When eating, be careful of the pits!  
  • Bing cherries are a cultivar that originated in Oregon. They’re widely grown there, as well as in Washington, California, and elsewhere. They’re the most common commercially produced sweet cherry in the US. 
  • BTW, the cherry is named for Ah Bing, who apparently was born in China and moved to the US around 1855. He got a job as foreman working for horticulturist Seth Lewelling. It’s unclear whether Bing himself developed the cultivar, or Lewelling simply named it in honor of his long-time employee.
Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Cherry Jubilee

“Love this!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I remember the first time we had cold cherry soup.”

“Me too,” I said. “We were in Boston, and had dinner at the late, lamented Café Budapest. It was one of their house specialties.”

“Then of course we were inspired to make our own,” said Mrs K R.

“Still don’t know how we lost that recipe,” I said. “Kind of glad we did, though. That soup was good, but this version is the best I’ve ever tasted.”

“Lucky break,” said Mrs K R. “Sometimes life is just a bowl of cherries.”

This time, without the pits.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Summer Pea Soup with Mint
Quick and Easy Gazpacho
Soupe au Pistou
Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill
Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder
No-Churn Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate
Easy, No-Cook Fruit Fool
Or check out the index for more recipes

















102 comments:

  1. Great looking soup and I am sure it is amazing. I have come close to making this recipe a few times and always picked something else. Love sour cherries I get them easily frozen at a Middle-Eastern store near me.

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    1. Hi CEE, never thought to look for frozen sour cherries at a Middle-Eastern market! Will have to look for those. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Cherries are my favorite summer fruit, I bet this is delicious!!

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    1. Hi Cheri, we love cherries too! And they're terrific in this. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I love cold soup. I have never seen one like this. Man you are right about the witch hunt for fresh sour cherries. You almost have to know someone with a tree. I am sure it's good with the Bing's, but the sour cherries would really really be over the top.

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    1. Hi Carol, this soup is good with both sour and Bing cherries! Somewhat different quality, but both really worth having. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Wow this sounds amazing! I've never had a cherry soup. It looks rich and combining the cherries and red wine together with the yogurt sound positively sensational. I'd love to serve this to guests in small glasses as an appetizer before dinner. Love it! I can't wait to make this.

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    1. Hi Vicki, it's a fun recipe! You'll like it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. I have never heard of this soup but I am so intrigued. I love Hungarian food and cherries are the best thing about summer, so win win. I have tried some of your recipes before and this will certainly be one. Thanks so much, Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, this is really a good dish. And it's fun to tinker with lemon juice, etc to exactly suit your taste (and it's so easy to do). Thanks for the comment.

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  6. What a beautiful colour! I love cherries but never thought of making a soup out of them, I have a bag of frozen tart cherries in the freezer. I'll have to looks at Lizzy's recipe too since I need one without wine. Looks fantastic though!

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    1. Hi Nazneen, cold cherry soup is delightful stuff -- super flavor, wonderful color. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Now I am going to tuck this away for the cherry season - remember having something similar years ago but have never made it. With some of the coldest weather we have ever had just a little difficult to think about cold soup at the moment:-)

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    1. Hi Rachel, this is definitely a warm weather soup. You can feast on it when it's chili weather here! Thanks for the comment.

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  8. This looks so refreshing... so delicious! I love dessert soups. It is a great summer treat!!!

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    1. Hi Denise, this is really a good soup! And if you sweeten it up, super for dessert. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Hi John , amazing , love cherries , never made cherry soup , family will love it .Thanks ...pinning:)

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    1. Hi Nee, cherry soup is good stuff! And a bit different -- which is always fun. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Well this is certainly different and have NEVER been included on my menu!!! My dad would loveeee it! Sending this recipe his way! Wish I could eat fruit! :(

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    1. Hi GiGI, too bad your digestive system can't handle fruit -- a real bummer. :-( Hope your dad enjoys this! Thanks for the comment.

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  11. I am so sad that our new little sour cherry trees that we planted will not give us any cherries this year thanks to a very late spring snow. So glad to know that this can be made with sweet cherries. I can't wait to try this. I am intrigued!

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    1. Hi Karen, there's always next year! Tough thing with fruit trees and gardens -- we get what the weather gives us. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Sour cherries are almost impossible to source so really glad to see you went this direction John. I am an admitted cherryaholic and this looks SO divine.

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    1. Hi Barb, this soup is goof for cherryaholics. Nice and soothing. Although you'll want seconds. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. This is the most interesting soup I have ever seen. Yes my guests will be impressed. I am impressed too!

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    1. Hi Nagi, it's good stuff! Really interesting flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  14. This is an amazing recipe! The color, the ingredients - I love everything about it. Wonderful! You and your wife are just so adorable :)

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    1. Hi Tricia, it really is a good recipe -- and a lot of fun to make, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. This is a MUST make! Being a huge of cherries, Italian Barbera, and cold soups, I know this is a soup I will fall in love with. Actually, I'm already in love just looking at the pictures. Oh and the black pepper sounds like a great addition. It's amazing how it transforms a dish and I love it sprinkled cantaloupe. Back to the market for more cherries. Thanks for this great soup!

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    1. Hi MJ, this is a fun recipe to tinker with -- I'm betting you'll up the amount of the black pepper. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. What a gorgeous summer soup! My mom was a huge fan of fruit soups, but I wasn't a huge fan of her favorite melon soup. Cherry is much more my style!

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    1. Hi Liz, isn't this nice? Fun flavor, fun color. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Wow! That is beautiful....I do have to admit that I have not yet had a cold fruit soup but my Soup Bible has several that I am considering experimenting with. This is a beautiful post, I love red food!

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    1. Hi Pat, cold fruit soups can be way too sweet and without much dimension. This isn't -- really good stuff. Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Cherry soup sounds delicious! Never tried anything like that! I'm so curious!

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    1. Hi Marcela, it's a good soup! Definitely worth a try. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. This is a very pretty soup and it would be a very refreshing way to start a meal. I don't think I've made too many chilled soups but I did make a tomato one once that had ham in it xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, your chilled tomato soup with ham sounds interesting! Like that idea. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I am SO making this next summer. I love cold soups. I have a favorite chilled lemon soup that I learned how to make in Austria but I think I like the cherries better. :)

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    1. Hi Maureen, you'd really like this -- tons of flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I love the fruit but I haven't tried the soup. This is my first time to see one! Oh the color is beautiful and I bet it tastes delish.

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    1. Hi Lux, isn't that color pretty? And the soup is sooo good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I adore cherries, but I have never seen it in a soup before, actually I don't think I have really eaten too much Hungarian food. Must try this little beauty. Tis a great colour. Adding to my summer eats list. :)

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    1. Hi Anna, Hungarian food is wonderful! Definitely worth getting acquainted with. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I have not heard of this soup, but it sounds delish. I will have to put it on my to-do list. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Madonna, this is really worth making! Magnificent flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. I never heard of cherry soup so now I'm intrigued. With melting temperatures and a love of cherries, I can't wait to try this!

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    1. Hi Pamela, this is such a great summer soup! Particularly for a steamy NYC summer -- it really gets hot and humid there! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. I am obsessed with cherries and don't even mind pitting them. I typically can find sour cherries for a few weeks at the farmer's market and I snap them up.

    I have always wanted to make cherry soup. Would you serve this as an app, side, or dessert?

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    1. Hi Laura, you live in an area where you can get great cherries! We like to serve this for a first course, but you could certainly sweeten it up a bit and serve it as a dessert, too. If you do that, I might consider using sweet cream instead of yogurt -- haven't done that, but it sounds like it'd be good. Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Where do you come up with these recipes?
    SO UNIQUE!
    Looks so good.

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    1. Hi Honey, isn't this great? Such a tasty soup! Thanks for the comment.

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  27. We're coming up on cherry season here, and I'd love to try this. I do like the idea of using sour cherries - I buy them fresh every year and I can't get enough of them. Thanks for this delicious idea.

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    1. Hi Beth, lucky you being able to reliably find sour cherries! It' shit or miss here for some reason. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. The color is dazzling! I better go hoard all the cherries at the farmers market this weekend, as it looks to be another short season here, what with our continued drought. Sigh.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, isn't this pretty? Fun color, fun taste. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Your soup looks amazing. I have never eaten a fruit soup, but it sound really delicious.

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    1. Hi Dawn, fruit soup can be a nice summer treat! Worth trying, at least. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Looks like you didn't really need the recipe, your creativity was more than enough. Such an intriguing soup, and would love to taste it now. Love the colours. Good job, John!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

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    1. Hi Julie & Alesah, it helped that I had made this from a recipe a couple of things before, so I kinda sorta knew what I was supposed to do. ;-) We really like the color too -- so pretty! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. I remember eating this years ago at a Hungarian restaurant in Israel. I remember it because at that time I asked myself who would eat cold soup. And why is it made with cherries? And what's this sour cream on top for? Of course I was only 18 and now I'm much older and this sounds perfectly delightful!

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    1. Hi Abbe, it's really a nice soup, isn't it? Although the first time I heard of it I thought it was a bit strange, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I've never had cherry soup before...it looks beautiful and delicious.

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    1. Hi Pam, it's really a fun soup! Worth a try sometime, we say. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. I bought two big bags of sour cherries at the Armenian market on Hillhurst. I'll admit I'd planned cocktail cherries with the bulk of them. But I'll set some aside and try to resurrect your long lost sour cherry version with the Bing recipe as my jump off point. I can't imagine I'd need to make to many changes. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, main changes you'll probably need to make are using a sweeter wine and (probably) more sugar. I'd probably opt for sour cream rather than yogurt, or maybe creme fraiche. Have fun! And thanks for the comment.

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  34. Wow cherries in soup... very interesting!!!! Loved the color of the soup.

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    1. Hi Shibi, cherry soup is so worth having! Really good stuff. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Oh you beat me to it - I was sent 18 pounds of cherries by the Washington Cherry board and I'm planning to make a version of this soup - what a glorious color!

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    1. Hi Sue, isn't this such a wonderful looking soup? Look forward to seeing yours! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. You must be a fast pitter! It would take me 15 minutes just to pit the cherries, but you convinced me it's worth it!

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    1. Hi Rosemary, we have practice pitting cherries, so it doesn't take us that long. Probably 10 minutes, though -- it's a tedious process, isn't it? But it really is worth it! Thanks for the comment.

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  37. I'm loving these summer soups you're posting, John! This one is another winner. We're getting lots of cherries here and this is a perfect use for them. Great started for a outdoor grilled dinner.

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    1. Hi Bill, this is a great starter for a grilled dinner! Very nice mix of flavors. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. My grandmom used to make a cherry relish in summer. I am going to love this soup. This is something I had not even heard of before, but I already love the flavors and color. Thank you for a great recipe.

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    1. Hi Ansh, this really is a superb soup -- we've having it for dinner again tonight! You'll like this. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. Cold cherry soup! How fun. If I served this I think I just might tease my guests and tell them it was borscht - until they took the first delicious bite.

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    1. Hi Chris, this looks a bit like borscht, doesn't it? Fun trick. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Delicious soup and it would also be a lovely palate cleanser between dishes too! I don't think I have every tried anything like it. thanks for introducing us to this unique dish. We have the sour and pickles ume or plums here in Asia but have not seen the sour cherries. Wishing you a safe and happy weekend. Take Care

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    1. Hi Bam, I think it'd be pretty easy to do a riff off this soup with sour plums. Sounds like fun to me! Thanks for the comment.

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  41. First - I just gotta say I love, love, love, the coloring of this! And - chilled - with cherries and lemon and mint - this sounds so refreshing!

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    1. Hi Shashi, isn't the color of this great? And the flavor is even better! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Hungarian cuisine is really new to me, this is tempting to try...
    Dedy@Dentist Chef

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    1. Hi Dedy, bet you'd like this! Really terrific soup. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. I have to make this for my husband. He LOVES cherries and takes full advantage of eating as many as he can this time of year :)

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    1. Hi Ashley, if your husband is a cherry love, he'll adore this soup! So good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. A brightly blazed yet softly soothing soup. How sweet! How cool is that!
    Thanks a bunch for introducing me to Hungarian cuisine.

    Yes, I agree that life is a bowl of cherries. So, I should make some soup ASAP before the cherries go wilted :)

    Love the soul-soothing look of your soup.

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    1. Hi Nusrat, this is soul-soothing stuff. Awfully good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. This is quite unique and looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Peachy, isn't this interesting? Everyone who tastes it really enjoys it -- a winner! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I'm not much for cold soups, but this one is too pretty not to love! Perfect for a Summer dinner party. Thanks for the recipe John.

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    1. Hi Lea Ann, we love the way this looks! Had it again this weekend. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. I've not had cherry soup before, love the sound of it and what a great purple colour.

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    1. Hi Caroline, cherry soup has an amazing flavor -- definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

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  48. Cold cherry soup?! Ive got to try this, thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Hi Kiran, it's really good! You'll be happy you tried it ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  49. That looks so pretty - like a work of art. I think I would use sour cream to temper the sourness of the cherries.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, sour cream would be the traditional choice, and it's quite nice. But yogurt is worth a try, too -- it adds a different sort of sourness. Thanks for the comment.

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  50. What a beautiful color... I've never had cold soup before. It is more common in the Middle East to have hot soups only. Loved yours.

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    1. Hi Amira, I tend to prefer hot soup, although cold ones can be lovely. And this one is! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. I've been intrigued by the idea of cherry soup, perhaps this is the year to try? Only once in recent years have I had fresh sour cherries, and I had to go in with a friend and pick them up from a produce supplier. However the Costco near me has consistently had frozen organic tart cherries this season, and sometimes frozen sweet ones. I've been making lots of cherry goodies--- perhaps this will be next!

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    1. Hi Mary, cherry soup is so nice! We've used frozen Costco sweet cherries in the past, and I'd assume their sour ones would be good too. Sounds like you'll be having fun playing with them! Thanks for the comment.

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