Is there a better harbinger of summer than the cherry? I mean, I'm not in school anymore so I don't give a shit about summer vacation and as far as going to the beach is concerned...... have you seen my complexion? Cherries perfectly time themselves around the beginning of the summer (June 21st) and last only a few months. So it is with this in mind that as soon as the cherries are ready to be plucked from their branches that I get excited to go out and pick a bunch.
Around the second week in June is when I start to get an itching for those little red drops of fruity goodness. It is also around the time that I started calling Lohr's Orchard and hoping that the recorded voice says that it is time to come over and pick your own cherries. When it was time, the wife and I woke up bright and early on a Saturday morning (11 am ) and headed on up to the orchard for a few hours of relaxation in the cherry trees.
After you have navigated your way through Lohr's agricultural maze to the cherry orchard, you find yourself in a small field full of cherry trees bustling with people all trying to pick a perfect crimson drupe. It is time to get to picking!
This was the contents of a ladies basket by us. (notice her form of stemming them before dropping it)
The first thing you realize is how shockingly red they are. We all know that cherries are, well cherry red, but damn these little fuckers are bright. They look like Christmas lights when the sun hits them the right way. Once you get over the sheer beauty of everything its now time to start grabbing. It's oddly relaxing up in the tree picking off the soft fruit. You're brain turns off and all you need to think about is "would I eat this?". If the answer is yes, then you pick it off the branch and pop it into your bag (a nice fabric one I hope). As time goes by you get into a rhythmic trance and before you know it, you've been in the trees for an hour or so.
After I had realized that we had been there for an hour, I asked my wife if she was satisfied with her haul and when she said yes we were ready to compare our plunder. She had picked way more than I did (in my defense I was taking pictures) and we realized that the total weight might have broken our previous years record by a pound or two. In the end we wound up picking 15 pounds which was up from 12 pounds last year. We were victorious, but then we remembered what happened to us last year. With dread we realized we were going to have to take them home and pit them ourselves. It took around 2 hours.
After the pitting, we looked like we murdered a bus full of nuns (or if you are disturbed by that image, how about a bus full of penguins. Better?). We were ready to eat, but there was no way in hell we could polish off 15 pounds of cherries in one sitting. Time to freeze.
After the cherries were pitted, all that was left to do was to put them on sheet trays and pop them into the freezer until frozen. From there, the frozen red marbles were scooped into a gallon size zip top bag for an indeterminate deep freeze.
Kept this way in the freezer, you can have individual cherries anytime you want. Although being able to pop them in your mouth frozen anytime you want is a good reason to freeze them this way (I do this constantly), there is another functional reason. If you were to just plop them all in a bag together at once, you would have a huge cherry colored block of ice that you could hack at with a butter knife.
So go get some cherries. Whether you pick them yourself, or buy them from a local farm at the farmer's market, they are a great and versatile fruit.
I will start posting cherry recipes as soon as the recipes start.