This Hungarian delicacy may seem like an odd choice, at first, to make on hot summer days. However, it is actually the perfect dish if you want to cool down as this soup is served and meant to be eaten cold.
It may seem like a dessert, but it is actually not, at least not in most places. Sour cherry soup is offered just like any other soup, making it very popular among children, especially since whipped cream often complements it. It is the perfect dish to start a summer luncheon with or to commence an evening feast. However, its rich, fresh, creamy taste is so delicious and filling that you may not need (or want) to eat anything else afterwards.
Although nowadays, the dish is offered in several restaurants all over Europe,
it originated in Hungary and can be seen as evidence of the mixing of Asian and Continental European influences in Hungarian cuisine.
It is a known dish in the neighbouring countries like Austria, Slovakia and Poland, but Hungarian emigrants even introduced it to Americans and Canadians.
Apart from the basic ingredients, the recipe for sour cherry soup seems to vary from household to household. Special ingredients include extra fruit (both canned and fresh sour cherries and regular cherries), red or white wine, fresh cream and occasionally even some vanilla ice cream.
Sour cherry is the only fruit for which the currently still in-use Hungarian word – meggy – has Finno-Ugric origins, suggesting that
Hungarians have been familiar with the fruit since before conquering the Carpathian Basin, although it is unsure when the tradition of this delicious soup started.
Very little is known about the history of the dish. It is an undeniable fact, though, that Hungary has a huge variety of sour cherry trees, producing different kinds of sour cherries. This suggests that it is possible that these types of trees spread from Hungary to other parts of Europe.
1 kg sour cherries
4 tbsp sugar
250 ml cream
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
2-3 pieces of star anise
Wash the sour cherries thoroughly and pit them. Take a deep saucepan, add the sugar and some water, about twice as much as the amount of sour cherries. Depending on how thick you want the soup to be, you can add 1.5-2.5 litres. Then add the spices – the cinnamon, the star anise, the cloves – in a tea infuser, along with the salt and the lemon zest. Now bring it to a slow boil.
Reduce the heat and remove the spice holder while whisking together the cream and the flour in a separate bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the soup to this and mix until smooth. Slowly add this creamy-floury mixture to the soup, constantly stirring to avoid lumps. Now the only thing left to do is cool down the soup, then you can enjoy this delicious summer dish.
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