Friday, June 24, 2011

Ch Ch Ch Cherry Bomb!!!

This past weekend I got in my car and went driving up Bouquet Canyon, a super fun twisty road headed for Leona Valley where the cherries grow.  I went to a U-Pick farm up there.

Here's something I'd like to figure out before spending my money. When the crazy orchard owner is listening to the radio after you've given him your money, after you've picked and weighed 9 pounds of cherries and you hear the announcer say, and I quote,
"The liberals never learn, even when you teach them something over and over again! It's like McCarthy. We've taught them that he wasn't the evil person that they say he was and yet they still keep referring to McCarthyism as a bad thing...." 
I wish I had known that beforehand. I really hate giving my money to these people. Anyway, I'll try a new farm next time...

Clearly I'm a bad, bad blogger. I always forget to take pictures! 

The farm encourages you to taste as you go, so by the time I was finished picking my bucket, I was stuffed to the gills with cherries.  I also learned a new trick of putting up old CDs in the trees to scare away the birds. Gotta do this with my peaches and pomegranates.
Pretty cherries!

Anyway, I picked 9 pounds of cherries and headed back toward the San Fernando valley for canning and other enjoyment.  Yum!

I like to pick and use fruit within 24 hours.  I feel like it tastes better that way and I know myself. I get busy. If I make the time to harvest, then I also like to make the time to process within 24 hours. When I harvested my loquats, I would get off the ladder and take them straight to the stove. Same with the apricots and the zucchini.  Otherwise, I tend to have rotting fruits and veggies in the fridge which is kind of a pet peeve of the Mr.

So I arrived home and started sorting cherries!

First I pulled out almost all of the Rainiers and made them into a jam with vanilla beans.  Unfortunately, this is where the bomb comes in because while they taste superb, they are totally ruined visually as I didn't follow the directions for powdered pectin to the letter. They are also SUPER JELLED which is not my preferred way to have jam. I like it a bit runny.  Now I know better, but damn it!!!  I'll be giving out some tasty but bubbly-looking and jello-consistency jam. 

Then I picked out all of the bing cherries and tried again.  This time I made the Bing cherry jam with some kirsch and it just looks like a precious ruby.  Absolutely lovely and tasty.  Yay!  Other than caramelizing my entire stovetop, it was a total success!!!

Utah Giants?

Finally, I had some Utah Giants, which were not giant at all.  Actually, they were quite tiny so perhaps the tree was marked wrong but they were absolutely tasty and quite ripe so I picked a bunch.  I had already canned 2 batches of jam so next on my list was some maraschino cherries.

I went out and bought some Luxardo cherry liqueur which was, if nothing else, in a very lovely bottle.  I don't drink.  I just have absolutely no taste for alcohol whatsoever, but the recipe called for liqueur and who am I to argue? It also calls for cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and because I'm crazy like that, I also added some vanilla bean.

First I used the last of the Rainiers.  I know maraschino cherries are supposed to be super red, but I wanted to try this, and so try I did. From some forums I looked at, the cherries are supposed to be much more tasty after a couple of weeks in the juices, so I'm not going to taste them for a couple of days. They have just a hint of redness to them. I like the color. We'll see if I like the taste.
Rainiers in syrup

Next, I started the "Utah Giant" dwarf cherries. Again, the forums suggested that if you want really red maraschino cherries, you either have to use a certain kind of cherry or use some red food coloring.  I wasn't about to do that, so I just hoped for the best.  Well, not quite a bomb, but not really a success either. The simmering in sugar part sucked a bunch of the color from the cherries, so they're not nearly as red as they appear in these photos before the simmering, but I put them up anyway and in a couple of days I'll taste a few to see how they come out.  I'll update you as to whether at least the taste was a success or it was a total failure.

I've had such resounding success with all of my marmalades, jams and jellies so far this year. These cherries certainly taught me a little lesson in patience...and using pectin, which I haven't used this year at all...Oh well. What's next in the harvest?  Tune in to find out!

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