Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cherry Picking

When I was little I used to climb trees. Tall ones, short ones, ones with branches really low to the ground and those that you really had to work to get anywhere. While it usually wasn't a requirement, I loved to climb fruit bearing trees mainly because they came with snacks. I'd climb a tree full of still-green plums and hang out and munch until my belly ached. Then I'd pick whatever would fit into the skirt of the dress my mom would send me out in, hoping that for once I'd keep it clean, and I'd lug the loot home for homemade punch, jam or whatever else my mother was inspired to make. Inevitably, I fell out of more trees then I can recall, but I always came back for more. There's just no better vantage point from which to observe the world then from the quiet solitude of a tall leafy branch.

When we moved to the states, the suburbs no less, my tree climbing days were abruptly cut short. I tried to pick up where I had left off, but after a few neighbors complained, I was firmly asked to keep my feet on the ground, which is more or less where I've kept them for many years. Now you rightfully ask, why would I tell you this? Well, because it turns out my tree climbing days aren't quite as behind me as I had feared. I have been wanting to go sour cherry picking for many years and two weeks ago I found a spot in Rockford, IL and drove a little over an hour early in the morning to do just that. Some of the trees were already picked over as this was not the first day and I was not the first one to come, but after I grabbed four large bags back at the front desk, where a large dog washed my feet with his tongue, all part of the service, I turned left where others turned right and I was able to find some nice trees where I promptly got to work. After going through most of the tree and barely filling up one bag I looked up and saw....tons and tons of unpicked cherries hanging off of the hard to reach branches way above my head:

"Aha! If I just climb up there, I'll be able fill up my bags in no time," I thought to myself. I hesitated for a moment, remembering all those pesky neighbors, slung my camera over my shoulder, hung the bags over one of the higher branches and climbed up higher where I was literally surrounded by dozens of crowded bunches of sun warmed red cherries, which basically jumped into my bags on their own. Aside from one startled Polish lady that didn't see me up there when she picked my tree to pick her harvest until I dropped a few cherries, narrowly missing her head, no one complained and I came away with a huge load of cherries to work with.

I gave one of the bags to my mom, just as I used to in the old days, and she promptly churned out dozens and dozens of cherry filled buns and cookies. Yummy! I shared a large bowl of them with a friend and took the rest home for experimentation. First up came sour cherry sorbet using a recipe I found on this site. It was very good, but next time I think I'll cut the sugar by quite a bit as it was too sweet to my taste.

The next batch went into a large jar with several liters of vodka with the hope that in a few months I'll have a lovely sour cherry liquor to give out as gifts for the holidays. I'll post pictures once the mixture gets a bit more saturated.

And finally, skipping the ones that I ate right out of the bag, the rest were turned into a "no recipe" sour cherry jam I read about on David Lebovitz's site:

I think next time I'll save more for just eating :)

1 comment:

Joseph Erdos said...

What a beautiful story! I wish I were as lucky as you to have cherry farms nearby. The act of actually picking the cherries makes the whole process so down to earth. I had to buy mine from the farmers' market already picked. Some cherries even came with little wriggling occupants. It's exciting to experience the quirks of farm-fresh fruit.