One of my favorite local farms, Hentze Farm, is having their annual cherry festival this weekend, July 16 and 17. I’m planning to sling preserved cherry products for the crowd on Saturday as part of the Master Food Preserver demo station. We’ll be answering questions about how to preserve summer tree fruit and berries.
Come out to Junction City to say hello!
This might be the only week (they tell me) for U-Pick cherries, and you can also buy other fruit and vegetables. There will be BBQ, live music, and farm animals and games for the kids. Kids and adults alike may enjoy the cannery equipment that sets this farm apart from others, too. The family bought up some of the machines that cut beans, pit cherries, and strip corn, so you can always get your farm-fresh produce prepared for convenience there. Each year, I buy a 10# bag of freshly pitted sour cherries for brandied, frozen, and dried use during the year. The leftover juice can be turned into a sour cherry jelly or syrup.
I’ll be bringing my pickled cherries to sample as a prelude to my demo at the upcoming “Intro to Pickling” class on July 22. We’re nearly full but if you’re desperate to learn how to pickle, it’s from 6 to 8:30 at the Community Church of Christ, 1485 Gilham Road. Call 541-344-4885 for information on how to register. The class is $15 or you can still buy all three remaining classes (pickles, tomatoes & salsa, meats) for $40).
Believe me, once you taste these, you’ll want to include them in your repertoire, so I’m including a recipe here!
My pickled cherries use the classic Chinese five spices as flavoring: star anise, cinnamon, clove, Sichuan peppercorn and fennelseed. These spices all work beautifully with cherries individually — why not put them all together?
As they mature for a month or so, the vinegar and spices mellow to produce a sweet, sour, spiced pickle that is absolutely delicious with roast pork or duck. Imagine it alongside a thickly cut pork chop from Biancalana Pork, for example.
Pickled Cherries with Five Spices
Makes about 3 pints
You can use fresh Bing (dark sweet) cherries or premium frozen ones (the bigger the better) for this recipe. I used Hentze’s frozen cherries from last year, already pitted, since the crop wasn’t quite ready. And a pint of fresh Queen Annes for some color variation! The cherries are prettier if you leave the pits in, and the pits add a nice, slightly almond flavor to the brine. Be sure to plan ahead for this recipe, as it sits for several days on the counter and then needs to rest for a month or so.
- 4 cups sweet dark cherries (see note above)
- 2 cups cider or white wine vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (can use less for less kick)
- 5-6 whole cloves
- 3-4 whole star anise
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Stem the cherries and pit them, if you wish. Let cherries sit overnight in the vinegar in a non-reactive bowl.
In a non-reactive saucepan, add sugar, water, and spices. Drain the vinegar from the cherries into a bowl or directly into the saucepan if you are bold. Place the cherries into the non-reactive bowl.
Heat the vinegar mixture to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
Let the liquid cool to room temperature, then pour over the cherries. Cover with a plate to submerge, and put a towel or plastic wrap over the bowl. Let sit at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Drain the liquid from the cherries into a non-reactive saucepan.
Remove the cinnamon stick and strain the spices (if you wish). Boil the liquid. Simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Clean and sterilize 3-4 pint jars. Scoop the cherries into the jars, leaving room for quite a bit of liquid.
Pour the liquid over the cherries in the jars, leaving an inch or so headspace. Cover the jar with a non-reactive cap (the plastic ones are fine, but metal lids/rings are not) and store in the refrigerator for a month before eating. Keeps for many months.