Use up some of your abundant Evans cherry harvest or raid your freezer stash for these delectable Oat Crumble Bars. The ruby red sour cherry filling peeks out between crumbly layers of sweet buttery oats. Warm ginger sings harmony, a delicious counterpart to the tangy fruit. (Skip to recipe)
If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits? Erma Bombeck, 1978
Well, I’ve been in the pits and in the juice, and in the trees and in the pails and in the jars – I’ve been in the cherries.
It’s been cherry season at our place. Evans sour cherry season.
Cherries everywhere, man.
There are delicious preserved cherries in the dehydrator, regular dried cherries out of the dehydrator (and another dehydrator-full humming in the background, out of sight), gallon jars full of cherries soaking in brandy, smaller jars of cherries soaking in vinegar solution for shrub (recipe coming soon), and a pan full of Evans Cherry Ginger Oat Crumble Bars – the third one this week! Plus I’ve pitted and frozen bags full, made juice concentrate, Evans cherry vinegar, cherry pie, cherry crisp, and we’ve eaten our share of the tart jewels fresh.
We’ve had fun picking cherries with friends, but mostly I just run out in my pyjamas and rubber boots to quickly pick a pail in the morning so I can get them going for the day. I’m cherried out. But it feels good.
It’s the kind of good feeling that comes of preparing food for the winter, of using up the harvest and not wasting a bit. It’s the kind of good that was drilled into me since I was a small child, helping mom pick fruit or can vegetables from our garden. It’s the kind of good that I can’t fight – no matter how I try.
I am genetically programmed not to let food go to waste.
And sometimes it can be a curse. Because I need to use up every. . . little. . . bit.
Growing up with parents who lived through war, fled as refugees, and relocated halfway across the world as immigrants, you grow up with that fear of hunger instilled in you, even if you’ve never been hungry yourself. You know better than to waste anything. You are taught to use up and appreciate every bite of food you take.
- You gnaw the meat off your chicken bones until they are glistening clean. (You then rinse them and make soup with them.)
- You eat your apple cores until there are only a few seeds and a stem left.
- You wash and re-use all plastic bags and even plastic sandwich wrap.
- You carefully unwrap gifts without tearing the paper and reuse it again and again.
- You suck peach pits until every little string of fruit is removed from the crevices.
- You pour water into the last dregs of the ketchup bottle (and shampoo bottles), shake it and use it until there isn’t a drop remaining. You then repurpose the empty ketchup bottles to store your homemade syrups and sauces.
- You mend shoes and patch clothing.
- You reuse wax paper for sandwiches until it tears to shreds.
- You carefully take apart brown paper bags to use as wrapping paper and writing paper.
- You turn leftovers into casseroles and leftover casseroles into soups.
- You make your own food from scratch even when it’s easier to buy it from the store.
- You forage for all and any wild foods in season.
- You scavenge neighbours’ fields after harvest, and you accept all offers of fruit windfalls.
You get the picture.
We live in a land of plenty now. And I still can’t shake those ingrained habits. I do now throw out used wax paper and sandwich wrap (even though I cringe when I do it). And I can even force myself to throw leftovers to the chickens because I’ve learned the hard way that creating a whole new dish just to use up that leftover bit of off-tasting sauce sometimes creates more waste when the new dish isn’t eaten. I even throw out the gnawed-on chicken bones, now.
But I still can’t waste the harvest off a beautiful loaded fruit tree.
So I give it away and freeze it and can it and preserve it. Even if there is so much of it we can’t eat it all.
Because it can feed someone who might be hungry.
* * * * *
These crumbly oaty bars remind me of the comfort food of my childhood – special treats my mom baked for coffee time or company. The luscious sour cherry filling and warm kick of ginger laced through buttery crumbles are a wonderful treat with a hot cup of tea or cold glass of milk.
Kitchen Frau Notes: For an easy trick to pit Evans cherries, click here.
If you don’t have Evans cherries, other sour cherries would work, too, or you can use raspberries.
I prefer to only use organic cornstarch, since corn is one of the most genetically modified plants out there. At least when I’m using organic, I know it’s not a GMO. It’s a bit harder to find (health food stores) but I buy a lot at a time, since it lasts forever.
If you’re allergic to corn, you can use potato starch as a substitute.
*For an egg-free version, replace the egg white with 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds stirred into 2 tablespoons water; let it gel for 5 minutes, then stir into the dough for the base.
If you’re not a fan of ginger – omit it from the base and filing, and increase the vanilla in the filling to 1 teaspoon.
- 2 cups (350gms) pitted Evans sour cherries, fresh or frozen (or substitute with with fresh or frozen raspberries) – use slightly heaped cupfuls if frozen.
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground dried ginger)
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (100gms) sugar (I prefer organic, evaporated cane sugar)
- 1/3 cup (80ml) orange juice (or apple juice)
- ¼ cup (30gms) cornstarch (preferably organic)
Base and Crumble:
- 1 cup (100gms) oat flour (gluten free if necessary)
- ¼ cup (30gms) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (70gms) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 2/3 cup (150gms) softened butter or coconut oil
- 2 cups (180gms) quick oats (small-flake rolled oats, but not instant oats), gluten-free if necessary
- 1 egg white
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180°C). Grease an 8×8 inch (20x20cm) square baking pan.
Make the filling: Combine the sour cherries, ginger, vanilla, and sugar in a saucepan. Stir together the orange juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add it to the cherries. Bring the filling to a boil, stirring often. Then stir constantly as it thickens. Cook and stir for thirty seconds – the cherries will break up quite a bit. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the filling.
Make the Base and Crumble Topping:
In a bowl, combine the oat flour, cornstarch, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Add the butter and blend in with a mixer or rub in with your hands. Make sure the butter is very soft if using your hands. Blend in the rolled oats, again with the mixer or with your hands. Blend it only until the oats are incorporated and the mixture is still somewhat crumbly. Large crumbles are fine. Don’t blend so long that the mixture forms a ball.
Divide the crumbles into two equal parts. Set one half aside and mix the egg white into the other half to make a thick dough. Pat this dough evenly into the greased baking pan to form a base..
Spread the sour cherry filling over the base. Top with the remaining crumbles, breaking up any large ones with your fingers and sprinkling them evenly over the filling.
Bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool.
Cut into 9 large or 16 small squares.
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