Cherry season is a time to celebrate in Washington State. We love cherry pies, pickled cherries, drunken cherries, cherry ice cream, chocolate covered cherries, dehydrated cherries and so much more. Every year we buy a bulk amount of cherries. Yes, we have several large cherry trees in our orchard but they are apparently owned and harvested by the birds. Rather than start a turf war with our feathered neighbors, we just buy several boxes of cherries to satisfy our cherry needs. This year the birds took pity on us and decided to share. In just a few short hours we had picked over 80 lbs. of cherries.
After the Picking the Real Work Begins
The picking of cherries is my second favorite part of the whole process. (Eating all the cherry creations is my favorite of course.) The prep work falls into last place but there are certain traditions that have developed. For example, I can be counted on to say, “how did the cherry juice get all the way over there” referring to my cherry speckled walls. I also will make the declaration that “I have got to buy a new cherry pitter”. Neither of these statements is that earth shattering, but the fact I say the same thing every year for close to a decade, makes me predictable if not boring.
Cherry Stone Pitting Tools
I’ve used my cherry pitting workhorse for years. I have this model. I think I paid a couple dollars for it many years ago and it’s still going strong. It’s a great choice if you don’t plan on pitting 60 + pounds of cherries. For large batches of cherries it can be a bit time consuming and I’ve found that quite a few cherries sneak through the process with their pits still intact. I’m guessing there’s a certain amount of user error, meaning I don’t line up the pitter directly over the cherry pit and ‘miss’ when I hit the plunger.
I decided to finally splurge on a new pitter this year. After a bit of research I purchased this Leifheit Cherry Pitter. I was specifically looking for a model that wouldn’t break the bank and could handle a large volume of cherries quickly. After a brief learning period I found this pitter cut the labor time significantly. Aside from the hopper occasionally experiencing a traffic jam it made quick work of the batch of cherries. Then the real test; I dehydrate some cherries, so after pitting I cut them in half before placing them in the dehydrator. Out of approximately 20 lbs of cherries I only found 2 with pits still intact. I’m super happy with this purchase.
FRESH Chocolate Covered Cherries
No cherry season would be complete without cherry pie, some of Hub’s amazing cherry ice cream and of course chocolate covered cherries.
Fresh chocolate covered cherries are super easy and a real treat. Here’s how I do it: Wash and pit the cherries and then pat dry. Some people like to roll their cherries in powdered sugar but we’ve found them plenty sweet without this step and usually skip it. However, if you like your cherries sweeter then by all means, roll away. Then comes the molds….most people would use candy molds but we use ice cube trays. While the molds make them prettier, the ice cube trays work just as well. Also I use them for tons of stuff (freezing herbs, milk cubes for coffee, etc…). I like this type of ice cube tray. It has a lid to allow stacking, the silicon allows you to remove the cubes without a huge effort and they are easy to clean.
Melting the chocolate is the next step. You can use a double boiler but I usually take the shortcut of using a microwave. Just make sure no water comes into contact with your chocolate because that will cause it seize. Short bursts of heat with stirring in between works best. Add a scoop of coconut oil, melt and mix well. Then pour the melted chocolate mix over the trays, covering the cherries thoroughly. Tap the trays on the table top gently to release air bubbles and make sure the chocolate is fully encasing the cherry. You could optionally sprinkle shredded coconut, nuts or powdered cocoa over the top. Then put the whole thing in the fridge for a few hours to solidify. Note: since the cherries are fresh these treats should be refrigerated and eaten within a week or so.
Other Favorite Cherry Recipes
Some of other my favorite ways to continue enjoying cherries all year include these amazing drunken cherries. These are fabulous on ice cream, with brownies and give regular old ice tea or cocktails a special flair. Another amazing and unusual recipe we love is pickled cherries. A friend suggested these to me a few years ago and I’m so glad she did. These sweet and tart treasures have earned a permanent place on our charcuterie board. This year I discovered a new favorite, smoky cherry BBQ sauce. This recipe is simply amazing and will definitely become a staple in our home.
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