They really are the world's most elegant fruit, those perfect ripe orbs, each dangling from a slender stylish stem. And yet, like the Hollywood legend who arrives home from the red carpet, sheds her Vera Wang and pulls on her Dorrito-stained sweat pants, the cherry transitions easily from luscious perfection lowered sensuously to waiting lips into a red-stained pit spat triumphantly across the back yard in a few juicy chomps.
Cherry production is big business. Like BIG. The Spousal Unit likes to tell the story of a business trip he made to a cherry orchard in the Okanagan a couple of years ago. This was no ma and pa orchard with some stunted apple trees and a few rows of cherry trees, chickens meandering through the grounds, cats lazing on fences. This place had helicopters.
The Spousal Unit and his companions were scheduled to take a helicopter tour of the area on the day that they were there, but it had rained the night before. All the helicopters had therefore been commandeered to hover above the orchard, fanning the trees with their blades to dry off the cherries in order to prevent them from bursting. The warehouse only operated for a few weeks each year, employed dozens of people, and generated some serious income. The largest, most perfect cherries never even get sold in Canada. Cherries are way more profitable than drug running evidently.
With my family stemming from the Black Forest region of Germany, I admit to having some cherry juice running through my veins. Which is why I found myself lugging twenty pounds of Okanagan cherries home from the farmers' market a couple of days ago. I really didn't want to delve into the whole canning process - been there, done that. A little research convinced me that freezing batches of cherries was the simplest way to deal with this over-abundance of goodness, but I was a little terrified of the pitting process. I had visions of myself cowering in the corner of a juice-splattered kitchen, in a scene from a torture-porn movie, rocking back and forth cradling my red-dripping hands, now crippled and useless. Much as I dislike kitchen gadgets that serve only one purpose, I figured it was time to invest in a cherry pitter.
Cherry pitters are actually not very expensive. With the money in my pocket from taking the house concert empties to the bottle depot, I was able to buy a very nice one at a kitchen supply store and still have enough left over for a cheap bottle of wine.
I love my cherry pitter! Cherry pitting is actually fast and easy, and considerably less messy than I expected.
In addition to freezing pitted cherries, I decided to try macerating a few jars of them. I gathered up all the little sample booze bottles and fishing trip leftovers that had accumulated in the liquor cabinet, and poured them into jars packed with only perfect blemish-free cherries, pits and stems intact. They look gorgeous, although I am told that the alcohol will eventually leach the colour from the cherries, so we will need to eat them within a few weeks. Shouldn't be a problem.
I have about ten pounds of cherries left to pit today, and tomorrow I plan to bake some cherry muffins, putting a lie to my assertion that I only ever bake muffins when we have overnight guests. Unless you want to come for a visit...
What would you do with twenty pounds of cherries?