Northwest cherry season lasts from the first week of June through the end of August. Look for deep, mahogany-red Bing cherries, which are firm and juicy. Large Rainier cherries that are yellow with a red blush. And heart-shaped Sweetheart cherries, which are firm, with a mild sweet flavor.
1 pound fresh (or thawed from frozen) sour cherries, pitted
1⁄2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
1⁄4 cup kirsch or brandy
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Heat cherries, sugar, juice, and vanilla bean along with the seeds and scrapings in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves in the cherries’ juices, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add kirsch; return to heat and ignite with a match. Using a spoon, baste cherries with liqueur and juices until the flame dies out. Spoon immediately into bowls of vanilla ice cream.