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~ Sour Cherry Season!!! (Late June thru Early July) ~

PICT5308In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat.  My grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as "pie cherries", but, if you are on a quest to purchase them, they are sometimes marketed as "tart cherries".  Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have come to learn is ideal for them, which is why our tree thrives, and thrives, and thrives.  That being said, even in this ideal environment, the sour cherry season is quite brief with the cherries being ready to pick at the very end of June or the very beginning of July.  Picking them is a bit tricky, as they are at their absolute best if left on the tree until you think they will begin to spoil if left there one more day, while at the same time getting them all picked, at once, before the birds devour an entire tree of cherries for you!

Joe spent this past weekend "up a tree" -- his sour cherry tree!

1010437_520457528013296_662635763_nA bit about sour cherries vs. cherries in general:  Sour cherries should not be confused with their cousins, the reddish-black Bing cherry and the peachy-blush Rainier cherry.  These two sweet cherries (which are larger and firmer than sour cherries) are great for eating "as is" like any other fresh fruit, but they do not make for great baked desserts.  When sour cherries are cooked, they become quite sweet, plus, they hold their shape better than their sweet relatives.  Sour cherries are a bit too tart to eat more than just a few out-of-hand, but they make superb preserves, pies and cobblers.  That being said, I make a marvelous sweet-and-savory sauce by cooking sour cherries with reduced duck stock.  It is absolutely decadent served with roast duck or pan-seared duck breast, pheasant or quail!

IMG_9348 PICT5314Once the cherries are picked, you have no more than 24-48 hours to "use them or lose them", which is why, while you can find them at local farmers markets, you will rarely find them in grocery stores.  This year, our now 15-year-old tree broke its previous record and presented us with 56 pounds of delectable goodness!  

What in the world do I do with all of these cherries?  Read on:

I think I know why Founding Foodie George Washington chopped down his father's cherry tree...

... his mother made George "pit" all of those dang cherries!!!

PICT5333I admit to having been overwhelmed the first year our tree bore fruit.  But, by the next year, I had done my homework and invested in the best dang cherry stoner money could buy:

The Westmark Cherry Stoner is made in Germany and no cherry pitter is faster or more efficient at removing the stones from a lot of cherries without bruising the fruit.  In about 4 hours, we literally had all of these cherries ready for baking and/or freezing.

This nifty little gadget is a bit pricy ($55.00-$65.00), but, if you have a lot of any type of cherries to process, this machine is for you!

PICT0523Once the stones are out of the cherries, I weigh, portion and pack 2 pounds of cherries into plastic ziplock food storage bags.  Two pounds, or about 6 cups, is what I deem necessary for one sour cherry pie.  I freeze each individual bag flat and I do not stack the bags on top of each other until they are frozen, so the ones at the top do not crush the ones at the bottom.

PICT0464Note of importance:  When it's time to bake a pie, or use cherries in a baked dessert, do not allow them to thaw to room temperature because too many juices ooze out of them.  I place my frozen cherries in a large mixing bowl and let them partially-thaw, to a "pliable but slightly frozen, icy state", stirring them occasionally.  This takes about 20-30 minutes.  In this photo, the cherries are soft and pliable on their outsides yet still frozen on their insides.  Notice, there is no juice PICT0534puddling in the bottom of the bowl!

In my foodie life, there are many things I attest to loving and they're not often desserts (I'm not a big sweet treat or chocolate eater, so fruit desserts are my favorite.).  In my foodie life, a sour cherry pie made the same day Joe picks the cherries from our tree is at the very top of my Summer dessert list.  

You can find my recipe for ~ I Can't Lie, this is Real Sour-Cherry Streusel Pie ~ in Category 6!

PICT0520"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


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