Here we are… just a few days away from being at the height of our cherry picking season! We are growing Rainier cherries which are one of the sweetest, prettiest and most pampered of cherries grown and my pooched out tummy confirms that. (oy-vey, why did I eat that last pound! lol) I have decided that when I grow up I want to be a pomologist, which is a person who studies fruits and nuts. I will pick them, study them and eat them! Seems like an easy profession to me. So lets start our education…
We must be able to first identify them… Rainier’s have a creamy-yellow flesh, which gives the blush of the skin a sunny undertone, kissed by the sun. The Rainier is a cross between a Bing and a Van — two sweet-red varieties. Harold Fogle, who at the time directed the cherry breeding program at the Washington State University extension station in Prosser, made the cross in 1952. The variety was released in 1960. The mother tree still lives on a WSU plot five miles from the station. (I am sensing a road trip in my future :)
How do they grow? I have come to learn a lot about growing cherries and there is an art to it. The odds change daily, even hourly, with every shift in temperature, gust of wind or downpour of rain. If the wind blows too hard, the cherry bruises from rubbing against another cherry. If it rains more than a day, the cherry busts its skin. And not only are we feeding Amie Sue’s belly, about a quarter to a third of a crop goes to the birds!
Class over… LETS EAT!
Yesterday, my husband and I took a walk around our property and stood in awe under the canopy of the cherry tree branches. They are full of life and are producing little red bundles of juicy nutrients! It was all I could do to NOT fill my belly full cherries and
be wheelbarrowed waddle out of the orchard.
It has been amazing to watch the cherry trees go from bare branches, to gorgeous flower blossoms, to sweet little edible jewels! Hold on, let me rummage through my photos, I know I have a picture somewhere. OK, found it!
Whether you pick you cherries right from the branch or from a grocery store branch… you want to select ones that are firm, plump, and deep in color. Avoid bruised or split cherries. Scars and discolored spots are a sign that the cherry is especially sweet. Once you get them home, hole them up in the refrigerator for up to a week. Wash only when ready to eat. Water can cause them to soften and split and when this happens they are more susceptible to mold.
Tips for Pits:
- Rinse the cherries with cool water, and remove stems. If you have a lot of cherries, this is a good activity to do with a partner or two. If you’re alone, don’t be alarmed if you start talking to yourself. If you start answering yourself, well, then that is another story. :) This is a good time to listen to the radio, talk on a headset, watch television, or enjoy the meditative nature of a quiet, repetitive task.
- I use this one, if your curious. Works quite well.
If you don’t have a cherry pitter you can still easily do this task.
- Use a toothpick, un-bent paper clip, and insert into the stem-end of the cherry. You should feel it hit the pit.
- Twist your implement of choice around the pit and pop it out. It will take you a few cherries to get the feel of it.
- Set the pit aside and eat the cherry. WAIT! I guess if you want to make this recipe, you will need to restrain yourself a bit. That or buy some extras for “trial and error”. Yea, yea that’s the ticket… trial and error!
But wait there’s more…. you can use a beer bottle (or simular) and a chop stick..
- Position cherry upside down on the top of the beer bottle. Aim for the tiny mark on the bottom left by the flower.
- Using a chopstick, poke a hole right through the top of the cherry into the bottle.
- The pit should fall into the bottle and the cherry remain intact.
Ingredients: yields 4 cups
- 4 cups organic cherries, pitted
- 1/4 cup chia seeds, ground
- 1/4 cup chia seeds, whole
- 1/4 cup raw honey
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Tip: I recommend using organic cherries if at all possible. They are towards the top of the list in the list of “Dirty Dozen” fruits when it comes to pesticides.
- Ground chia seeds – you can grind the seeds in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder. If you don’t have a way to grind the chia seeds you can skip this step. I did some whole and some ground to texture purposes.
- Pit the cherries – if you use a cherry pitter, I do recommend that you double-check each one just to make sure it popped the pit out. I did 4 cups worth and found 6 cherries with holes in them but still had the pit in there. Not so pleasant to bite down on.
- In the food processor, fitted with the “S” blade, combine all ingredients and pulse together. You can decide how chunky or smooth that you want your jam.
- This is a good time to do a taste test. The sweetness level is determined by how sweet and ripe the cherries are. Make adjustments if needed.
- Transfer the jam into a medium-sized bowl, cover and place in the fridge. As it sits and chills it will thicken. (special thanks to our chia seeds!)
- Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 5-7 days.