Where I live every night of the summer we have Music in the Park from 7-8:30pm. It is such a lovely way to spend a summer evening that I find I am constantly trying to make portable easy dinners so that we can enjoy the spontaneity of all summer has to offer. I cooked a chicken last night and we still have a fridge full of cherries which led to the inspiration for tonight’s dinner.
I’ve been making chicken salad after a recipe from the Narrows restaurant (I think that’s where it came from), adding a tablespoon of stone ground mustard to mayonnaise, balsalmic vinegar, and a shot of hot sauce to the mayo and throwing in dried cherries (Michigan’s are the best), and walnuts with the onion.
Cherries show up in the middle to end of June where I live, chances are they do where you live too. If you miss them they are gone and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. If you are a grocery store shopper you get a little hint that the local fruit is on it’s way soon when the California seasonal varieties show up in the produce section, cherries are no exception.
I grew up with cherries. I have a cherry tree in my yard now and can’t really imagine life without them.
We eat cherries for about a week while they are in season but other than that the only cherries we enjoy are of the dehydrated variety. They are kind of like raisins but slightly bigger and great in kids lunches. Each year I dehydrate about 20 racks of cherries, I’m not sure what that is in lbs but I would guess 10-20lbs of cherries.
Processing cherries is one best done with three bowls, a comfortable seat and something entertaining on a screen. If you are opposed to your fingers being stained for a few days then I suggest wearing gloves. I use a paring knife and slice all the way around the cherry from top to bottom. The pit is loose at the bottom and fixed at the top so I then lift it with my knife to pull it out in one movement. This seems to be the most efficient way to pit cherries by hand and believe me I have pitted A LOT of cherries.
When I put them on the tray I put them cut side up. This stops them from sticking to the tray and makes unloading MUCH easier. They get stored in large mason jars and used in oatmeal, yogurt and as a finger snack for the remainder of the year.
If we have an excess of cherries I have been known to pit and freeze them until apricots come into season to make fruit leather.
I don’t normally can in July or August. It’s just too darn hot to have the stove on that much. Most of my summer preserving is done with the dehydrator on a table outside. One day I will find a man handy enough and who loves me enough to build me a solar dehydrator but until that day I use the electric variety.
However this year has been unseasonably – um – damp, which would make solar dehydration a little bit tricky. A conversation with a friend revealed the fact that I have never had canned cherries. Continue reading Summer Canning