Excerpt from:

Cherry Charmers

By

Louise Hart

 

 

 

 

(c) 2000. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Recipes

Quick Cherry Preserves 13

Traditional Cherry Preserves 15

Cherry Glace 17

Dried Cherries 19

Cherry Jelly 21

Cherry Pineapple Jam 23

Cherry Catsup 24

Washington Pie 27

Cherry Pound Cake 29

Sweet Cherry Topping 31

Iced Cherry Pie Delight 32

Cherry Upside Down Cake 33

Creamy Cherry Pineapple Salad 35

Holiday Candle Salad 37

Holiday Fruit Punch 39

Cherry Squares 41

Cherry Chiffon Pie 43

Steamed Cherry Duff 46

Cherry Snow Puffs 48

Cherry Sauce 50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Cherries are more than charming. Native to the Northern Hemisphere, this member of genus Prunus of the Rosaceae family is colorful, distinctive, healthful and unique. Cousins to the plum, peach, apricot and almond, they grow on small trees and bushes in temperate climates on all five continents. The United States leads the world in the production of cherries, which have the distinction of being simultaneously native to North America, Europe and Asia.

Their actual history is unknown for man began cultivating cherries before agricultural history was recorded. The Etruscans, Greeks and Romans all cultivated cherries. The Greek physician Dioscorides recommended pickled cornelian cherries to treat dysentery and various digestive ills. Native Americans used dried and ground choke cherry fruit in their cooking. They used the wood for poles, bows, arrows and skewers and the bark for medicine. Thomas Jefferson cultivated cherries at Monticello.

Although wild chokecherries and pin cherries are native to North America, the cultivated species used for commercial crops are thought to have originated in western Asia and Eastern Europe. Some ten to twelve species and over a thousand varieties of cherries are grown in North America and in Europe. More species are cultivated in eastern Asia. Unlike apples, some species of cherries have been cultivated not for their fruit, but rather, for aesthetics and decoration and the wild black cherry tree is prized for its wood.

The flowering of Japanese cherry trees has become cause for national and international celebrations in the U.S. and Japan. In Japan, cherry trees are considered a symbol of friendship. The mayor of Tokyo presented 3000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. Planted in East Potomac Park, the Tidal Basin, on the grounds of the Washington Monument and other National Park sites, today, there are 3,750 trees and twelve species flowering annually in Washington, D.C. They include the Yoshino Cherry, the Weeping Japanese Cherry, the Autumn Flowering Cherry, the Sargent Cherry, the Fugenzo Cherry, the Kwanzan Cherry, the Takesimensis Cherry, the Akebono Cherry, the Afterglow Cherry, the Shirofugen Cherry, the Okame Cherry and the Usuzumi Cherry. The Fugenzo is one of the oldest species of cherry trees in Japan and the Usuzumi trees growing in West Potomac park are propagations from the over 1400 year old Usuzumi tree growing in the village of Itasho Neo in Gifu Prefecture of Japan. The festival commemorating this gift and the beauty of the cherry blossoms began in Washington, D.C., after a re-enactment of the first plantings by school children in 1935.

The flowering of the cherry blossoms is also an occasion for celebration in Macon, Georgia, which hosts the international cherry blossom festival each year and in Utah. Utah also received a gift of ornamental cherry trees from Japan after World War II. They now surround that state’s capitol building in Salt Lake City. However, unlike Washington, Utah is also one of the top producers of both sweet and sour cherries. In recognition of the cherry’s benefit to the state, Utah, which harvests two billion cherries a year, adopted the cherry as its state’s fruit.

However, Washington, D.C., Georgia and Utah are not the cherry capital of the U.S. That title is reserved for Traverse City, Michigan, for it was in the Grand Traverse Region where the first commercial cherry orchards and cherry industry in the U.S. were established . Early French colonists planted the first pits or seeds for cultivated cherry trees in North America. Those first trees were planted along the St. Lawrence River and in the Great Lakes region. However, the commercial cherry industry in the U.S. traces its roots not to the French settlers, but rather, to a Presbyterian missionary named Peter Dougherty who planted a cherry orchard north of Traverse City in 1852. Dougherty’s orchard was a success. His trees flourished and soon other residents also began to plant more trees. Then, in 1893, the first commercial orchard was planted and in the early 1900’s, the first cherry processing facility, the Traverse City Canning Company, was built so that farmers could process and can their crops for shipment to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee. Today, with over two million cherry trees growing in the Grand Traverse Region, the city where the industry began calls itself the "Cherry Capital of the World". Cherries from the region are now shipped around the world for Michigan leads the U.S. in the production of tart cherries, producing, canning and shipping three-quarters of the total U.S. tart cherry crop each year. Forty percent of the annual U.S. crop of 230,000 metric tons comes from the Grand Traverse region. Utah, Wisconsin, New York, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Colorado may also produce significant amounts of tart cherries, but it is Michigan that hosts the Cherry Republic. Anton Checkov may have written the Cherry Orchard and the British singing group, the Beetles, may have sung of Cherry Lane (that is known for its fashions), but it is in Michigan that the healthful, Cherry burger originated and is being considered to be named the state burger.

Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Spain and Switzerland lead in production of cherries in Europe with Turkey, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Australia and Canada also producing substantial quantities of the red berries. In other countries, including the former eastern European states, China and Brazil, cherry orchards are being established for the demand for this berry is growing.

Cherries can be divided into wild or bitter, sour and sweet. A cross between the sour and sweet, the dukes, has also been developed for as with apples, cherries are an evolving fruit. Cherries grow on trees or bushes depending upon the terrain and climatic conditions. Cherries grow in all areas of the world where winter temperatures are not too severe and where summer temperatures are moderate. The trees require winter cold in order to blossom in the spring. Cultivated cherry trees blossom early in the spring, after peach trees but before apple trees.

Pin cherries and chokecherries grow wild over a large part of North America. Early settlers quickly learned to use these cherries in their jams, jellies, preserves and other household cooking just as the Native Americans had. As with other varieties of cherries, both pin and choke cherries require cross-pollination for good fruit. Pin cherries range in color from orange-red to red and are about half the size of cultivated varieties. Pin cherries have a tart flavor that makes them ideally suited for use in making jellies and syrups. The color of chokecherries ranges from yellow to orange, red, purple-black to black. The astringent quality of the chokecherry gave this fruit its name, however, some varieties of chokecherries are non-astringent. The bark of these wild cherry trees has recognized medicinal qualities and the wood of the black cherry tree is the only member of the rose family distinguished for its economic use in forestry.

Sweet cherries (P. avium), generally heart-shaped to nearly globular and about 1-inch in size, vary in color from yellow through read to nearly black. They are the edible berries that we see in the supermarket or marketed as true or imitation maraschino cherries. In the U.S. and Europe, sweet cherries are also used in making wines and liqueurs. At least two species of sweet cherries must be grown together because sweet cherries cannot self-pollinate as sour cherries can. Sour cherries can pollinate sweet cherry trees. Almost half of the U.S. sweet cherry production comes from Washington state with the balance grown in Oregon, California, Michigan, Utah, Idaho, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania. Sweet cherry trees are more sensitive to extremes of climate and thus, not as hearty as sour or wild, although their fruit is more durable than the fruit of Sour Cherries.

Although the Bing cherry is possibly the best-known variety of sweet cherries, Hedelfingen, Vista, Viva, Vega, Vogue, Viscount and Van are also grown widely. Two new varieties, the Vandelay and Tehranivee were introduced in 1996. All blossom and fruit before sour cherries.

Montmorency has been the dominant variety of cultivated sour cherries. However, Michigan cherry growers introduced the Balanton cherry to the market in 2000. They believe that it may be the perfect tart cherry because it is bigger, firmer, darker and sweeter than other sour cherries. These qualities are important because tart cherries are primarily processed for juice concentrate, preserves and canning (for pies and other desserts).

Because they are low in fat, a good source of potassium, Vitamin C, protein, iron, pantothenic acid, fiber and natural carbohydrates, cherries, and especially dried cherries, have long been recommended and used by athletes, hikers and back packers. However, as substantial as their nutritive and taste qualities are, they are not the principal reasons consumers have and should be including cherries in their diets. The fact is that cherries are good for us.

Alternative, folk and homeopathic medicine and natural food advocates have long held that within nature are the cures for all the ills that afflict mankind. Physicians in ancient Greece recommended the use of cherries for dysentery and various digestive ills. Native Americans also recognized these qualities, but also, utilized teas and infusions made of wild cherry bark to relieve coughs and bronchial conditions long before the white settlers arrived. Modern medical research has confirmed these qualities and many more.

Wild cherry bark contains prunasin, a cyanogenetic glycoside, tannins, sugar, eudesmic acid, p-coumaric acid, benzaldehyde and scopoletin. Harvested in young trees and plants in the autumn when it is most active, the bark has been found to be an effective anti-tussive, expectorant, astringent, nervine and anti-spasmodic. Because it can help quiet irritating coughs, it has been an included ingredient in cough mixtures to treat bronchitis, whooping cough, pleurisy, pneumonia and asthma. The bark has also been used to treat catarrhal dyspepsia, acute hepatitis, phthisis, palpitations, weak digestion, poor appetite, chronic diarrhea, weak throat and inflammation of the eyes. It has been found to relieve the irritation of the mucous surfaces while toning the body and circulation. Overuse has been a consideration because of the potential of cyanide poisoning, but under medical direction, infusions made by pouring a cup of boiling water onto a teaspoonful of dried bark and steeping the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes have been taken up to three times a day with no adverse effects.

The impressive medicinal qualities of wild cherry bark may be overshadowed by those of the tart cherry. Tart cherries have been proven to contain high levels of melatonin. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant. Tart cherries also contain anthocyanins and other phytochemicals. In university medical research funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute of Michigan, the antioxidants in tart cherries have been found to protect artery walls from damage that leads to plaque buildup and heart disease, prevent varicose veins, relieve the chronic pain of arthritis, headaches and even gout. Further, the compounds in cherries may shut down the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation and thus may be effective in treating other forms of pain. Cherries contain perillyl alcohol, a natural chemical that not only flushes cancer-causing substances out of the body, but also, may help retard or stop the growth of cancerous cells. It is this latter quality that has led to cherries being recommended as one of the 25 best foods, the consumption of which is believed to help prevent breast cancer.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that eating 20 tart cherries a day provides 12 to 25 milligrams of active antioxidants that fight free radicals in our blood stream and could cut the risk of heart attack by 30 percent. The anthocyanins that give cherries their color also may help prevent varicose veins by strengthening the walls of blood vessels. This latter quality may also help blood circulation and hence functioning in the brain. The antioxidant compounds in cherries have been shown to be ten times stronger than aspirin or ibuprofen in relieving pain.

Because scientists at the University of Michigan believe that consumers may be reluctant to consume a bowl of sour cherries a day, they are attempting to develop a cherry pill that will have the same effect.

However, recent research indicates that consumers need wait that long to begin to enjoy the health and other benefits of tart cherries. Tart cherries contain over 17 antioxidants. When combined with meat, these antioxidants work to slow down the oxidation deterioration of meat lipids and thus delay the meat from going rancid. The antioxidants also reduce the formation of suspected cancer-causing compounds formed naturally during the cooking process. Components in cherries function as inhibitors of the reactions that lead to the formation of the carcinogenic compound, HAA (Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines). Moreover, when just 11.5 percent tart cherry tissue is added to ground beef, the combined beef cherry hamburgers show less shrinkage and loss of juice in cooking.

Nutritionally, the numbers are impressive. Using only 85% lean ground beef, researchers at the University of Michigan found that a cooked three-ounce combination beef and tart cherry burger has at least a hundred and forty-five less calories (160 calories versus 245), ten less grams of fat (8 versus 18), over a third less saturated fat (4 grams versus 6.9), over a third less cholesterol (50 mg versus 76). High in protein (16 grams), a source of vitamins and fiber, the burgers are easy to digest and cook in less time. Because the burgers retain their juiciness and contain less fat, they require less clean up and have less shrinkage. The flavor of the tart cherries blends with and enhances the meat, and is thus undetectable to the consumer. As a result, cherry burgers are now on the school menus in sixteen states, and at least one major fast food chain is now said to be including cherry hamburgers in its menu. The northern Michigan butcher who developed this combination now sells his burger meat worldwide via the internet and a number of supermarket chains feature the burger as "low fat" hamburger.

For those seeking to use cherries in more traditional ways, the choice of cherries is a function of their use. Sweet cherries can be served raw or in salads, with desserts, meats or other dishes. They are sold as true and imitation maraschino cherries and often used in wines. A normal serving size is about 5 ounces or one cup (20 to 21 cherries). A normal serving has 90 or less calories (depending upon variety), a gram of protein, 14 to 19 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, 270 mg. of potassium and, of course, no fat, cholesterol or sodium. (Cherries, which grow in all temperate climes and soils, are not salt tolerant.)

Sweet cherries can be made into jams, preserves or brandied as can sour and bitter cherries. Most consumers buy sour cherries in cans or jars when making holiday pies. They can also be used to make fruit compotes, flans, soufflés, meat dishes, cherry drinks, smoothies, cherries jubilee as well as wines and cherry flavored carbonated or spring waters.

As a rule, in selecting cherries, the deeper the color, the sweeter or richer the cherries will taste. The deep color is a function of the soluble solids content (SSC) of the cherries. The taste of a cherry is a function of the SSC ratio to titratable acidity (TA) in the fruit. The other qualities to be considered in choosing fresh cherries are their freedom from cracks, bird pecks, shriveling, decay and shape. Green fleshy stems on cherries are an indicator of freshness and quality.

Although delicate to handle, if cherries are refrigerated (at 32 degrees F. or 0 degrees C. at 90 percent relative humidity), unwashed, covered cherries can keep for up to two weeks. As with all fruit, cherries should, of course, be washed before cooking or serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today most consumers buy fresh cherries only for a wholesome fruit snack or colorful topping for fruit salads or vegetable or cheese trays. Maraschino cherries are used in salads and drinks or as decorative toppings (with pineapple or other fruits) on holiday hams or served with chicken entrées. Cherry-flavored gelatin molded salads are an easy summer treat. Cherries are an included ingredient in main dishes, fast food hamburgers, vinaigrettes, salsas, baked goods, desserts, soft drinks, juices, candies, ice creams, cough syrups, drops and medicine. Glace cherries are combined with citron and candied fruits in holiday fruitcakes, breads and cookies. Canned or preserved cherries make quick, colorful, sweet cherry pies. Chocolate covered cherries are often given as gifts or served in place of mints as an after dinner treat. Cherry Jubilees are almost universally known although few realize that teas can also be made from cherries.

Few pick wild choke or pin cherries or grow their own cherries in their backyards or seek to incorporate cherries into their menus or diets. Given the flavorful and colorful qualities and health benefits of cherries, this limited use of these native berries seems a loss on the part of the consumer.

In our mother and grandmother’s times, picking chokecherries was no more extraordinary than picking wild blueberries or strawberries. All were used to make preserves, jams, jellies, sauces and other dishes to be enjoyed throughout the year. All provided an opportunity to enjoy a productive family outing. Once taught how to find, identify and select wild cherries, children were often given this fun responsibility and opportunity to contribute to the family’s resources. The children were also included in the preparation of the preserves, jams, jellies, graces and other dishes from the berries they had picked so that they could take full pride in their accomplishment and learn how to economically maintain a household and cook at the same time.

The preparation of Cherry preserves or glace is a fun family activity. Preserving cherries can be accomplished with or without hot canning methods and making one’s own fruit glace is a wonderfully creative challenge for young children. Recipes for each are included below. For the preserves, some cooks prefer to remove the stones or pits; others believe that leaving the pits in the cherries (until they are to be served or consumed) enriches their flavor. The choice is individual.

 

 

Quick Cherry Preserves (uncooked method)

 

Wash, dry on paper towels and remove the stems from

Fresh ripe wild or cultivated, bitter or sour cherries

Fill wide-mouthed fruit preserve bottles nearly full with

Cleaned, dry cherries.

Fill each bottle to within 1/2-inch of top with

Blackstrap molasses

After filling the bottles, clean top of inside of the bottles or glasses above the fruit. Put rubber seal and top on each bottle and lock the bottle tightly (bottles can also be corked and then covered with heavy plastic wrap secured with elastics or the fruit can be covered with 1/8-inch melted paraffin. When paraffin has set, pour another 1/8-inch layer of paraffin over first layer. Tip bottle to spread paraffin evenly. Let cool in areas where there are no drafts and then cover with heavy plastic wrap secured with elastics).

When securely sealed, gently shake each bottle to mix ingredients.

Store on shelf in cool, dark room or cabinet or in refrigerator. Shake occasionally to keep contents well mixed.

The molasses will be absorbed by the cherries. The cherries can thus be used in pies or puddings without further sweetening.

In our grandmother’s time, the residue of molasses not absorbed by the cherries was simply mixed with water and served as a homemade sweet cherry drink.

 

 

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