Pioneer Woman Cherries – Part Two

Remember when I mentioned that our neighbor had a beautiful established cherry tree in the far back section of her yard that she said we could harvest from? Well, if the amount of blossoms on the tree amazed me, nothing could have really prepared me for the amount of cherries it would end up producing!

On Saturday, I spent most of the morning/afternoon helping my parents sell their wares at the Fond du Lac farmer’s market. I did some thrifting on my way home, picked up a load of groceries at Woodmans, and arrived back at the house to be greeted by a sweaty Jason. He’d spent some time trimming some overgrown Maple saplings from our neighbor’s yard, and informed me that we had to get out and pick the cherries right away.

I wandered back there to investigate, and sure enough, there were thousands of ripe cherries weighing the branching down. We decided to dedicate Sunday as “cherry day”.

Sunday afternoon, we headed out to the backyard with a ladder, two buckets, and an iPod player for entertainment. We went at it for about two hours, taking turns picking from the top and the bottom.

It was HOT work, but it was fun. It reminded me of picking cherries in Door County when I was a kid. Besides, anything that allows us to be outside is definitely worth my time.

We ended up halfway filling a five gallon bucket, at which point I thought we should stop because every one of those cherries would need pitting and the afternoon was already wearing on.

We took a brief break to look up some cherry jam recipes, run out to the grocery store, and keep the farmhand happy by stopping by Qdoba. After all, he had a long evening of cherry pitting ahead of him…

We got back home, settled in the kitchen with a few bowls, towels, and downloaded episodes of RadioLab. We don’t own a cherry pitter, and it seemed just as easy to use our hands than to try to track one down. So, we squeezed the pits out ourselves and put up with the sticky juice getting all over us. When we’d pitted about ten cups worth, Jason started the canning process and prepared a sugar syrup to make some cherry pie filling. I kept at the pitting until his jars were bubbling away with their contents, at which point we switched and I started running cherries through the food processor to make jam.

We finished up the whole process around 9:45pm, ending up with 7 pint jars of cherry preserves and 11 half pint jars of cherry syrup. It was supposed to be 11 half pint jars of cherry jam…but apparently I didn’t add enough pectin and it’s sort of on the runny side. Which, honestly, I’m fine with. We’ll definitely eat it on pancakes/french toast/crepes/ice cream. Plus, there’s still enough cherries on the tree that we could easily get another six cups if we really wanted to make jam.

We also reserved a pint of cherry juice for this week’s smoothies and 2.5 quarts of whole cherries went into the freezer. Tart cherries are insanely good for you; they’re high in antioxidants and they help with inflammation. With both of us sitting at desks all day and then running 2-3 times per week, we’ll take all the benefits they have to offer.

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