Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wisconsin treasure: Door County Cherries

Oh, my.  I have really been looking forward to this post.

Wisconsin is home to many local treasures (food treasures, of course, what else would I be thinking of?), but one of everyone's favorites is Door County cherries.  Shoppers pounce when they cherries come into the market mid-summer. Cherries are one of my favorite fruits - something about a ruby red cherry, not overly sweet, makes my tummy very happy.

So when Paul and Lori over at the Burp! blog put out the call to local food bloggers that they could hook us up with 27 pound buckets of fresh Door County cherries from Cherryland's Best, we jumped on it.  Some might be intimidated, nay, scared, at the sight of a 27 lb. bucket of cherries.  Some may wonder what in the world one could do with so many cherries.

Not us.

We know exactly what to do with so much fruit.  Last year we preserved 60 lbs of strawberries, 100 pounds of apples, 16 quarts of blueberries, and untold quantities of peaches and pears, not to mention quite a few pounds of cherries and raspberries.  And some nectarines.  And rhubarb.  And apricots.  So 27 pounds of cherries?  Not only is this not a problem, this is in fact quite exciting.

The cherries themselves were picked on Wednesday, pitted on Thursday, and delivered to us on Friday.  It's hard to get fresher!  Since I am lacking much brain power at the moment, here's some more information direct from Cherryland's Best, the producer who supplied the fruit:

Founded in 1994, CherryLand’s Best produces tasty and healthy dried tart cherries, tart cherry products and cherry juices, exclusively from one of the Midwest’s most beloved vacation spots, Door County, Wisconsin.    Door County, located in Northeast Wisconsin has become well known for it’s unique shops and quaint towns such as Egg Harbor, Ephraim and Fish Creek. This gorgeous peninsula is home to bike trails, parks and stunning outdoor beauty. Incredible restaurants and wineries make Door County a Foodie’s paradise! Probably the most well-known feature of Door County is it’s landscape dotted with family-owned and operated Cherry orchards.

For years, CherryLand’s Best has used the finest Montmorency Cherries from these orchards to create our dried fruit treats. Supporting these local farmers has helped sustain this very special crop. We hope you enjoy this truly “something special from Wisconsin” product. Check this link: to learn more about the great health benefits of Tart Cherries and Cherry Juices.

Founded by Brian Joosten, CherryLand’s Best’s facility is located in Appleton, Wisconsin. Brian and his amazing crew of Cherry specialists take great pride in producing both dried Cherries and Juices... delivering a healthy treat that is truly a ‘taste of Door County.’

Montmorency Cherries are only grown in a few places on earth. That’s why we’re honored to be members of the Door County Tart Cherry Growers Association, a group of family-owned farmers that are dedicated to keeping Tart Cherries a sustainable and locally-grown effort.

Of course, we froze quite a few cherries.  We're looking forward to using them over the next year. 

But we had to use as many fresh as we could - and enjoy them while we can!

The first application was a simple Cherry Clafoutis.  A classic dessert, a clafoutis is appealing to me due to it's simplicity (so very easy to make) and it's low sugar content (great for Bryan's diabetes).  I also used a coconut palm sugar, which has a lower glycemic index.  An egg and milk custard is poured over fruit (usually stone fruits) and baked.  It's truly that simple.

weighing out the cherries
blending up the custard
adding the cherries to the hot baking dish
adding the custard
the finished dish

happy helpers

The next order of business was cherry freezer jam.  I've been into the freezer jams this year, as they are far quicker than the cooked and canned kind, and I have far less time this summer (the full time job and two small children thing really cramps my style sometimes).  I've been trying to find the right no/low sugar pection to use, and this time around, the Sure-Jel No Sugar Needed Premium Fruit Pectin worked for me. 

Freezer jam is pretty darn simple.  You essentially mash your fruit, add your pectin, sugar/water/juice/whatever it is you are using, and put into containers.  Viola!  Jam!  The Sure-Jel had me mixing the pectin into sugar, adding water, and bringing to a boil, then stirring the hot pectin mix into the fruit, and letting the containers of jam set overnight on the counter.  It definitely came out the jammiest of all my recent attempts, so I'm pretty happy with it.

mashed fruit
heating the pectin and sugar with water
mixing the hot pectin mixture into the mashed fruit

And, it's rather delicious.  Especially on a bagel.  With cream cheese, too.

Or perhaps a biscuit.

Let's just say I haven't had too much trouble polishing off the first container of the jam... by myself.

Oh, and this brings us to the third and final recipe.  And my favorite.

Homemade Cherry Limeade.

Holy mackerel, this is good stuff.  I've always had a bit of a crush on cherry limeade soda, but never gave much thought to making my own.  However, we had a lot of cherry juice from the cherries being packed in that bucket, and no way were were going to let it go to waste.  A little simple syrup, fresh squeezed lime juice, and club soda, and I will never go back to buying the soda again.  Oh, my.

cherry juice
lime juice
with club soda and simple syrup, on ice

We froze the rest of the cherry juice so that we can continue to enjoy this treat.  With a Smashed White Bean and Avocado Club sandwich and some fresh corn on the cob, you have a pretty stellar dinner.  I speak from experience.

So that, my friends, is what you do with 27 lbs. of cherries.  And since we have more than a few pounds in the freezer, expect to see more recipes as we eat our way through our freezers this winter.


toadstoolmamma said...

Nice blog!

We've had similar issues with strawberries here but usually solved that by inviting friends over to pick them...which I sometimes regret later on!

I'm interested in coconut palm sugar, I've been off sweeteners (no honey, even) for about six months and with holiday baking looming in the near future....what can you tell me about the glycemic index?

I'd like to add you to my blogroll..nice to have different food blogs from different geographic regions!

Jen said...

There is some more info on the glycemix index on their website:

It has a much lower glycemix index than refined white sugar, although in doing some additional reading I found that the exact effects on diabetics shows that it may not make a big difference for diabetics.