Once again cherry season has come to Door County, Wisconsin, one of the nation's leading cherry growing areas. Lucky us, we're just half an hour from our favorite orchard, Cherry Lane near Forestville. We headed up on Sunday to replenish our stash in the freezer. Last year the crop was decimated by a late frost, so there were no “you-pick” cherries to be had.
This year, the trees were loaded. We picked seven buckets full, filling an entire cooler. This worked out to 24 quarts of frozen cherries, more than enough for us and our extended family. The “you-pick” cherries are generally tart, or pie, cherries. Montmorency is the preferred variety in our area. You can also buy ready picked cherries, both sweet and tart, and a wide variety of other cherry products .
Picking cherries is a great way to spend an afternoon. We saw a great mix of people in the orchard, grandparents with their grandchildren, young couples, individuals – even a large family group with the ladies all in lovely saris. I hope they made the men climb the ladders.
So why should you take the time to go cherry picking when it’s much easier to buy them at the store? Last year, cherry farmers received an average of 39.1 cents per pound when they sold their cherries wholesale. We paid $8 for a “nine pound” bucket (although I’m pretty sure we crammed more than nine pounds in – those buckets were full). This equals around 89 cents a pound for us, still a great deal, and more than doubles the income to the farmer. After last year’s losses (the crop was estimated at only 5% of average), I figure that buying local cherries at the farm is the least we can do to help support small family farms, plus we reduce our food miles and carbon footprint. When I asked about crop status, they said they're hoping to be picking through the middle of August, so you still have time to enjoy this wonderful treat.
Wisconsin Cherry Growers – Full listing of where to buy cherries and cherry products in Door County, plus recipes and health information about tart cherries.
U.S. tart cherry production spikes – After an almost total crop loss last year, Wisconsin — one of the nation's largest tart cherry growers — is expected to produce more than 8 million pounds of cherries this year.
Millions of Cherries – More detailed coverage of our cherry picking expedition at Common Sense Homesteading.
Recipes From the Wisconsin Cherry Growers Website:Print
- 2 cups cherry juice blend or water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups frozen unsweetened tart cherries
- 1 can (6 ounces) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, undiluted
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 bottle (2 liters) lemon-lime carbonated beverage, chilled
In a medium saucepan, combine cherry juice blend and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Reduce heat; simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
In electric blender or food processor container, combine cherries, orange juice concentrate and lemon juice. Blend 1 minute, or until cherries are pureed. In a 6-cup freezer container, combine cherry mixture and sugar mixture; mix well. Cover tightly; freeze 5 hours or overnight.
Remove cherry mixture from freezer 30 minutes before serving. Put 1/4 cup slush in each glass; add 1/2 cup carbonated beverage to each glass. Serve immediately. Freeze remaining slush for later use.
Note: 1 can (16 ounces) unsweetened tart cherries, drained, can be substituted for frozen cherries.
Asian Spinach Salad
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/2 medium jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (2 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger root
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 ounces dried rice noodles or rice sticks
- 4 cups torn fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (or other fresh herbs)
- 2 medium carrots, shredded
- 1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into 1 1/2 inch slivers
- 1/3 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
For the dressing, stir together orange juice, vinegar, jalapeno pepper, gingerroot, garlic, orange peel and black pepper. Set aside.
Cook rice noodles or rice sticks in a large pot of boiling water for 2 to 6 minutes or until tender. Drain. Immediately rinse with cold water. Drain. Fluff with a fork. Use kitchen scissors to cut up. Rinse again with cold water. Drain and fluff with a fork.
Toss together drained noodles, spinach, dried cherries, mint, carrots and cucumber. Drizzle with dressing. Toss to coat all ingredients with dressing. Sprinkle with peanuts. Serve immediately.
Zesty Cherry Stuffed Burgers
- 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Bleu cheese
- 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
- 2 tablespoons honey mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- Onion rolls, if desired
Prepare charcoal or gas grill for direct cooking. Cook over medium coals or heat.
Combine Bleu cheese, cherries, honey mustard, green onion and oregano; mix well.
Divide ground beef into 4 even portions. Shape each into a ball. Make a deep indentation with thumb into one of the portions. Fill with 2 tablespoons Bleu cheese mixture. Close the beef over the filling and shape into a patty about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with remaining beef.
Grill over medium direct heat approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Top each burger with 1 tablespoon Bleu cheese mixture during last minute of cooking. Serve on sliced onion rolls.