Garden Diary - June 2015

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Sour Cherries
Tuesday, 23 June 2015

It's that time of year again, when local fruit ripens. First strawberries, then cherries. Sweet cherries, dark spheres of sweetness, are wonderful to eat out of hand. I remember a sweet cherry tree in Brooklyn, in a neighbors yard. Huge, it was. I used to climb into the canopy, lie out on a branch and pick the nearby low-hanging fruit. Terrific way to eat cherries, up in a tree. You just spit the pits out with no worry about disposing of them.

Nowadays I'm still picking cherries, only they are sour cherries.
Mike will call when they are ripe and ready for me to come and pick.

There are two sour cherry trees. One, the older, is Montmorency. It was planted by Dick's uncle, and its fruit ripens a little later than North Star. Sour cherries are wonderful for pies and cobblers and clafouti. They're rather low in pectin so jam needs assistance if it is to set. Birds like cherries, sweet or sour, so the trees must be netted. Unlike sweet cherries though, the sour cherries do not split if they're rained on when almost ripe.

The net is off the tree I'll be picking from. I have a white bucket, and Mike lends me a pair of small, sharp clippers. It is important to cut each cherry's stem and not rip them off the branch. That would damage the small spur they grow from, and cause problems with next year's flowering.

The tree is loaded with fruit, enough to bend the thin branches.
This, even though Mike and Dick thinned the crop.

Glossy, bright red fruit shinning in the sunlight.

A full bucket weighs seven pounds. It takes me about an hour to fill it. Once I'm back home they need to be stemmed and pitted. The short remains of their clipped stem gently tugged away, cherry by cherry. As each one is stemmed, so too must it be pitted. How to pit a cherry? Well, I've done it with a hairpin. Slip it in through the stem scar. Slide it beneath the pit, twirl, and pull up, with the pit riding neatly in the curve of the hairpin. Results in a very neatly pitted cherry.

Mike has his grandmother's cherry pitter. It clamps to a table, like a Squeezo. Toss a handful of cherries into the hopper, turn a crank. The cherries come out the bottom and the pits come out the side. Quick, it is. But the device is old and getting rusty. It needs to be cleaned up and repainted. Dick just uses a small knife. Slits the side of a cherry, flicks out the pit. Repeat until done.

I have this handy-dandy Oxo cherry pitter. It does just one at a time. Stem cherry. Set in tiny metal cup of device. Squeeze handle. Pit is pushed through the cherry by the plunger while fruit remains in the cup. Toss pitted cherry in a measuring cup, drop pit on plate, reach for next one. It takes me 30 minutes to pit 2 cups/ about 90 cherries. Mix with 1/4 cup of sugar, toss together, promptly put in a pint size heavy plastic freezer bag. And freeze. Repeat. Repeat. Continue repeating until done. Yield from my bucket of sour cherries was seven pint bags.

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