Oh So Cherry!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Years ago, my family lived just north of Seattle, Washington. Every June, as my youngest daughter's birthday comes around, I am reminded of the year she was born. We made a trip over the pass into eastern Washington to visit an old friend of my Grandmother-in-law -- Pete, Pete the Cherry Man!! June is cherry season and we came home with TONS of cherries to be processed. Oh, those cherries were so wonderful and I spent many, many hours getting them all processed before I delivered. It was hot, back-breaking work for this 9 months pregnant momma but was so worth having all those wonderful cherries to enjoy......I think we had cherries for a couple of years. These days my cherries come from the grocery store and I don't process them like I once did but I always look forward to cherry season!

Since it is cherry season, I thought I'd share some Cherry Tricks & Tips (and a recipe too)!!

Fresh Eating: When you bring your cherries home, wash under cool tap water before eating or using in recipes. Fresh cherries may be kept for eating uncovered in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 3-5 days, taking them out about an hour before serving for the best flavor. Cherries will absorb odors, so keep other strong-smelling foods covered.

Pitting: To easily remove a cherry pit when eating the fresh fruit, slice open each fruit with a knife and pop out the pit. If you prefer to keep the cherries while, a variety of simple-to-use pitting devices are available at most kitchen supply stores, or try one of the following home methods:
* Using a paper clip or bobby pin ~ Start with a new or thoroughly cleaned clip/pin. Insert the loop into the center of the cherry, gently press around the pit and lift up.
* Using a knife blade ~ Gently press fruit until it cracks. Continue to gently squeeze the fruit between your thumb and a finger, and extract the pit with a knife. This technique crushes the fruit but it works well if you are making pies, sauces or jams.

Freezing: To freeze whole cherries, place in single layer of washed and dried cherries (do not remove stems) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dryness is key, so pat away any excess water before freezing. Place frozen cherries in an airtight container or freezer bag, and store in the freezer for up to 1 year. Thaw frozen cherries in the refrigerator rather than heating them to room temperature - to maintain the fruit's juice and firmness. For a special frosty treat, serve slightly frozen cherries.

Canning Cherries: Whether sweet or sour, all cherries may be canned for later use. Here are the basic steps for canning them.
*Select freshly harvested cherries with deep uniform color and ideal maturity for eating.
*Stem and wash. If desired, pit and treat cherries with ascorbic acid color keeper solution; drain. If preserved unpitted, prick skins on opposite sides with a clean needle to prevent splitting.
*Place raw cherries in jars. Cover with light syrup, amde by boiling a mixture of 1-1/2 c sugar and cups water. Leave a 1/2-inch headspace in jars. Water-bath process pints and quarts for 25 minutes, according to canning instructions.
*Once processed, remove jars from canner with a jar lifter and place on a towel or rack. Do not retighten screw bands. Air-cool for 12-24 hours. Remove screw bands and check lid seals. If the center of the lid is indented, wash, dry. label and store in a clean, cool, dark place. Use within 1 year.

Brandied Cherries: Brandy-soaked cherries are an irresistible topper for ice cream, pies and slices of grilled pound or angel food cake. Combine 1 quart of brandy and 2 cups sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add 2 pounds of stemmed and pitted cherries. Store in tightly covered jars in the refrigerator for 6 weeks before using. Cherries will keep, refrigerated. for up to 1 year.

Cherry Waldorf Salad
(Printable Version)

2 large Fuji apples, cored, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 c. pitted sweet cherries
1/2 c. dried cherries (cranberries can be used too)
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sour cream
2 tbsp honey
1/8 tsp salt

In a large salad bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. Stir in celery, cherries, cranberries and almonds. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, honey and salt until well blended. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Serves 10 (1/2 cup each).