Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sour Cherry Picking

Last weekend, hubby and I went and did our annual sour cherry picking expedition and picnic. Sour cherries are only available for a very, very short time up here in Virginia (less than 2 weeks), so we make sure to make time to go picking. I’ve rarely seen sour cherries available at the farmer’s markets and if they are there, they cost a fortune, so it’s worth going out of our way. They are also a very delicate fruit, so you will never see them in the grocery store outside a can or freezer case. The orchard we go to charges a dollar a pound, which is a total bargain as far as I’m concerned.

Before last year, I had never even SEEN a cherry tree, much less pick cherries. I was again amazed at picking such wonderful and exotic fruit (to me) that wasn’t citrus. I get the same feeling about apples, pears, and peaches, as I didn’t grew up around these kinds of fruit trees in Florida. Sour cherries are THE ultimate pie and canning cherry to use, as the sour flavor is tamed by all the sugar used in both recipes. To me, the epitome of cherry flavor comes from sour cherries and it’s one of my most favorite fruits.

The orchard was packed and it was a perfect day for cherry picking. Hubby and I initially staked out a tree, and then moved around the orchard to find the “perfect” tree. Some trees had smaller cherries and some bigger, some riper, some greener. We made our way around, occasionally popping one of the darker, riper, less sour cherries in our mouths. In the quieter part of the orchard, we’d pick in silence while eavesdropping in other people’s conversations. I loved hearing what people were going to do with the cherries when they got home. Were they going to make a pie, ice cream, jam? Surprisingly to me, there was an unusually large amount of Middle Easterners in the orchard; I remembered that from last year too. My guess is that sour cherries are very prized in their culture for desserts. My favorite part was watching new comers taste the cherries for the first time then scrunch up their faces and spit them out. I guess they didn’t know they weren’t sweet! We’ve had so much rain this spring that sweet cherries weren’t even available, but that’s perfectly fine by me.

After picking just shy of 30 lbs, we put up a small picnic spot in the shade of one of the trees and enjoyed a bottle of wine while watching young and old sour cherry enthusiasts busy themselves in the orchard. Later, when we got home, we pitted our entire haul and divided it into quart-sized freezer bags for the freezer. This will last us all year for pies, jams, sauces, and whatnot. Raspberries are next!

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