The cherries are ripe here in Southern Indiana, and that means it was time for a road trip this week to Farview Orchards. It’s about a 45 minutes drive from Happy Acres, and the best local source for cherries in our area. They have both sweet and sour cherries available for u-pick, as well as strawberries, which are winding down for the season. We were on a mission for cherries though. Our cherry trees are still quite young and only yielded a handful of fruit this year, so we were looking to pick enough to last us for the year.
The trees there were loaded with fruit, and we had our big buckets filled in no time. This year we wound up with around 15 pounds of the sour types plus another 5 pounds of the sweet. Last year we got about 15 pounds total from there, and it was nice to have an ample supply on hand throughout the year. This year we will have even more to enjoy. As you can see in the above photo, I wore a red shirt in case I got cherry juice all over me!
One of our friends asked us how we process our cherries, and this is a great opportunity to share that information here. I had several large cherry trees at my old place, and I’ve been growing, harvesting and preserving them for a number of years. The only difference here is that we let someone else do the growing this year!
Once we got the cherries home, it was time for a good washing. We rinsed the fruit several times in cold water, then let them drain. These cherries were not organically grown, so we were especially careful to wash them off thoroughly.
Next it’s time to get the pits out. Years ago I bought a nice cherry pitter that really gets the job done when you have a lot of cherries to pit. It’s made by Leifheit, and it has a hopper to hold the cherries and a stainless steel plunger that removes the pit. The pits fall into the bottom container, while the cherries roll down a chute and into a bowl (not included with the pitter). It takes a little time to get the hang of using it, but once you do it does a really good job and makes short work of the pitting process. We were able to wash and pit our 20 pounds of cherries in about an hour.
Once pitted, it’s time to get them ready for freezing. We use a recipe straight from my trusty Ball Blue Book. We mix 4 parts cherries (by volume) with 1 part sugar in a mixing bowl and stir well. Then we let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. Then the cherries and syrup go into containers and off to the freezer. For those concerned about the sugar, it helps to preserve the cherries, and you can drain it off when you thaw and use the cherries later on. Processed this way, cherries keep in the freezer for a couple of years without a significant loss of quality.
We use our cherries in a number of ways. Of course they make wonderful eating by themselves, thawed and drained. But they are also great baked with our Blackberry Cobbler recipe, using cherries instead of blackberries. And I love them fixed with rhubarb in a Rhubarb Cherry Crumble. The cherries compliment the tart rhubarb nicely. For a really special occasion, my wife will make her mom’s Cherry Upside Down Cake. That is a real treat indeed. Of course there’s always a cherry pie, though I haven’t made one of those recently.
I hope you have enjoyed a look at our recent cherry picking adventure, and how we process the fruit once we get it home. I’ll be back soon with a recipe for one of my new favorite things to do with cherries. Until then, happy growing and gardening from Happy Acres!