When I was in grammar school, George Washington’s birthday was apparently an opportunity to teach students about our very first president, to have us do a coloring sheet of Washington’s profile or standing beside a cherry tree with an axe in his hand and to teach a basic value- truth telling.
The way the story went… as a young man, George chopped down a cherry tree on his home property. Some teachers embellished it by saying how valuable the cherry tree was or that Washington had been told not to cut down this particular tree and in show of strength and prowess with an axe or as an act of rebellion, young George chopped down the cherry tree. I’m not sure exactly how the story goes, but I imagine the whole country became fond of cherry pies because of this famous legend.
Allow me to digress here… I went to grammar school after oil lanterns and quill pens went out of style- the electric light bulb had been in use for decades by then… and we had heroes like Superman- who leaped tall buildings in a single bound and lo and behold-here he comes to save the day … Superman even hopped through windows in a swirling cape, tights and a rigged up superhero outfit as the announcer proclaimed that Superman was for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’. A holdover no doubt from patriotic reels during World War II. I miss those old black and white yet colorful TV shows!
Anyway, Truth was taught as a value though the retelling of George Washington’s youth– for when the harsh question was asked- ‘Who chopped down the cherry tree?’ George didn’t shift blame…he boldly said, ‘I cannot tell a lie, it was I who chopped down the cherry tree.’ Now, lest you think we as a nation were the only ones profoundly affected by the tale of George and the cherry tree- the nation of Japan, donated cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin right in the midst of our capitol city- also named Washington! A celebration which is well attended every year- the Cherry Blossom Festival.
So! Recently I concocted a humble cherry crumble and had to name it- ‘Can’t tell a lie’ simply because… the cherry crumble was a failure on my part. I was trying to recreate my grandmother’s beloved recipe for Apricot Casserole by substituting sweet cherries! The failure was due to the fact that I didn’t calculate how many cherries would be needed and it just didn’t come out as I hoped it would. Still. I liked the flavor and the texture. And! Here it came to save the day! An heroic crunchy dessert topper for Sunday Dinner. I thought I would save this recipe for President’s Day weekend after we’ve all had lots of Valentine’s chocolate and need to get back to simple honest food. So here’s how you make Camellia’s Can’t tell a lie’ Cherry Crumble:
‘Can’t Tell a Lie’ Cherry Crumble
To honor Our first President, George Washington- According to legend, as a young man, Washington cut down a valuable Cherry Tree. Rather than allow someone else to shoulder the blame- The young George uttered the famous line ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ This cherry crumble is a particularly good topping for ice cream.
- 1 Stick Butter (Melted)
- 2 Sleeves Ritz Party Crackers (Crushed roughly)
- 2 14 ounce cans Sweet Cherries (Reserve liquid from 1 can)
- 1/2 Teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg (Freshly grated)
- 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar (Plus 1/2 cup sugar for reserved cherry liquid)
- 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar (Packed )
- 3/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt one stick of butter. In a small saucepan, add 3/4 cup reserved liquid from cherries and add 1/2 cup sugar and boil gently to make a simple syrup. Add almond extract to this mixture. While syrup is cooling- add drained cherries. Crush party crackers roughly, add spices and sugars, then pour melted stick of butter over the crumbs. In a buttered deep dish pie pan or 9×9 baking dish, press one half of buttered cracker crumb mixture. Layer cherries and syrup over the crumbs. Top this with the rest of the crumb mixture and top with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool. Cherry Crumble is delicious over ice cream.
If desired, more butter may be dotted over top of crumb and almond mixture before baking. Cherry crumble is a quick and delicious dessert any time of year!
Full disclosure, with the leftover crumble, I decided to try making an ice cream dessert with some of the crumble on the bottom of a loaf pan, vanilla ice cream layered on top, then added more sweet cherries and to finish, topped it with more of the cherry crumble. The sweet cherries may freeze, so if you decide to do this variation, here’s my suggestion: Slice the ice cream dessert ahead of time- to allow the cherries to thaw out a bit! Or.. omit the sweet cherries and save them as a topper! I can’t tell a lie about this- if I make it again, I’ll probably make the ice cream cake and add the sweet cherries as a garnish but- oh my! it did make a pretty dessert!
I hope y’all are having a restful enjoyable President’s Day weekend. I also hope they’re still handing out coloring sheets and teaching about ‘Honest’Abraham Lincoln and ‘Cant tell a lie’ George Washington in schools- I personally colored his hair light brown with reddish streaks instead of the all white styled wig we see in his portraits. Oh me! I hope we won’t forget to tell the stories and be thankful for this nation and our historic heroes!
Love y’all, Camellia
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