Ronni sent me an e-mail with a happy problem–too many cherries! She writes: “I am not sure if I am alone in this, but this is the 2nd time in 16 years that I have been lucky enough to get to enjoy the cherries on my cherry tree before the birds and squirrels. Every year they reek havoc on my tree; broken branches, cherries and seeds strewn everywhere. I am lucky to get maybe a handful of cherries, if that! However this year, because of the invasion of the cicadas, I was able to pick 4 huge buckets of cherries. Now what!?!?! I can only eat so many.
Other than cherry pies, what do you suggest I do with them? I have pitted 4 quarts already and made 1 cherry pie and still have a lot remaining. Can I freeze them, if so how? I was thinking of mixing cherries, apples and either peaches or blueberries and making combination type pies. How long can I keep them in the fridge pitted and unpitted? I am sure others would like to hear from you on this as well.”
Well, Ronni, first I have to say we gotta love those cicadas! Obviously, they are 4-star gourmet’ food for the birds, scoring higher than ripe cherries. There’s no accounting for taste.
Most humans, however, definitely prefer the cherries [with some exceptions]. In answer to your “Now what!” question, I defer to the quintessential authority on cherries, Door County, Wisconsin. Because the Door is famous for their Montmorency cherry orchards, several scrumptious recipes circulate in the region, a couple of which I will share with you.
First, yes you can freeze them. Place pitted, firm cherries in a zip lock bag in quantities you would use for cooking or baking. They keep about a week, pitted, and longer in the refrigerator if unpitted–but we’re talking best quality here. When they begin to get “mushy,” they are “going over,” as they say.
It is also becoming very popular to dry them, if you happen to have a food dehydrator. [Pit them first.] I buy the dried cherries when we are in Door County for snacking and as a satisfying addition to tossed salads. I just made a batch of French Tarragon Chicken Salad with the addition of dried cherries. The chewy, tart/sweet taste of the cherries was OVER-THE-TOP DELICIOUS with the savory chicken salad. Yum-a-licious!!! In a past Cottage Chat newsletter, I shared the recipe for Montmorency Cherry Coffee Cake. If you would like a repeat of that recipe, comment below. In the meantime, try these:
Yield: 10 pancakes (4-5 inches each)
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup pitted, tart cherries, drained
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and buttermilk. Pour eggs and buttermilk into dry ingredients and stir just until smooth. Add melted butter to batter and stir to combine.
Pour about 3 tablespoons of batter from the end of a large spoon or pitcher onto a hot, greased griddle. Cook pancakes until puffed and dry around the edges. Sprinkle 6 or 7 cherries over each pancake. Flip cakes and cook other side until golden brown. Remove cakes from griddle and garnish with a few cherries before serving.
Cherry Sauce [for meats]
3 cups fresh pitted cherries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Salt and pepper, Dijon mustard
Bring cherries, water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until cherries soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. In a small bowl mix cornstarch with cold water until smooth. Add to cherries and continue to cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper and Dijon mustard, to taste.
Serve cherry sauce with baked chicken breasts or grilled pork kabobs for a sweet & savory main dish.
Hope this gets you started, Ronni. Others may also have great recipes to share.