Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pie Cherries

Due to intermittent Spring freezes, I'm not getting much of a tree-fruit crop this year (again). The black (sweet) cherry tree had only a few cherries, and the birds got most of those. No plums, no peaches, no nectarines, no pears - and only a few apples.

I did get some Montmorency pie cherries. Sometimes, that little tree will bear so heavy that I can just sit in a lawn chair underneath and pick the cherries into a bowl in my lap. Picking pie cherries is a two-handed job - pulling the branch to you with one hand and then pinching the cherries off their stems with the other. This year, there were only a few cherries here and there, so I had to move about to be able to get to them. So here's what I came up with, and it worked great! I put a big plastic bowl into the "lap" of my granny apron, and then held it in place by clothes-pinning the skirt to the bib. I was able to duck under and around the branches and found enough cherries to fill the bowl.

Since I didn't have very many cherries to play with this year, I'm only doing my most favorite pie cherry storage option. I'm drying all of them. Dried pie cherries are wonderful - tart and sweet and chewy, just like the sweetened dried cranberries (sometimes marketed as "craisins") but with no sugar, nothing, added. Plus, no heating up the kitchen canning them, no freezer dependent on continuous electric power, and only a fraction of the storage space needed to keep them indefinitely. My various dried fruits are kept in gallon bags in tins in my pantry - easy to get to for a snack, to use in cooking (dried cherries in my Christmas fudge - yum!), or a handful in a baggie when I'm off on a hike.

After washing the bowlful and picking through to remove any bird-pecked ones, I sat down to pit them in front of a TV movie. I use a plastic soda straw, bent into a "Z" shape so that it fits into my hand (and also so the cherry goo can't push all the way out the other end). I don't even need to watch what I'm doing - I can just pick up a cherry, feel where the stem was, and then push the pit out the other end with the straw. I have a dehydrator, but this time of year sun-drying works just fine. I put the fruit on the screened trays from the dehydrator, and then to keep bugs and birds away, put the trays between two old window screens on the table out on the deck. I'm experimenting with a few strawberries too, but think I'd rather freeze them (slices on a cookie sheet until frozen, then put into a freezer bag so I can easily take out only as much as I want), or make them into jam.

Too humid where you live, or no dehydrator? You might try dehydrating fruit on cookie sheets in the back window of your car, parked in the sun with the windows cracked just a bit to let out the moisture.


frogtailrae said...

Those look beautiful!!
Love the bowl/apron picking bucket, too. You, my dear, are truly a Mother of Invention :-)

Anonymous said...

What an great idea! It is humid here so I will try the back window option.

You are amazing!