After last year’s labor-intensive successes with cherries, I knew exactly what to do with relatives visiting in mid-July: put them to work! Sure, I disguised it as sightseeing as first — let’s drive out the scenic Gorge to Hood River! — but they paid for the views in sweat. I’m pretty sure they enjoyed it, though, and took home quite a bit of fruit for their efforts.
We were lucky to catch the last weekend of cherry season at Root Orchards. Hood River Organic, which I’d gone to in early August the last two years, had finished the weekend before. I guess all the hot weather we had got the crop going earlier. The picking was a bit sparse, but there was plenty to fill our buckets with fifty pounds of cherries in not much more than an hour.
The cherries went much more smoothly this year than last not only because of the extra hands, but because of the new, deluxe cherry pitter I received as a gift. (Thanks, Rachel!) It made short work of all these pits.
We made dried close to half of them, made some into cherry rosemary jam, canned some plain, and experimented with cherry butter for the rest. Cherry butter occurred to me after all last year’s success with apple butter, and I followed the same easy procedure. I cooked down the cherries, ran them through a food mill, and then left them in the crock pot with the lid cracked for a couple of days to cook down. I canned some with a little lemon juice and honey, and some with a traditional cinnamon-spice profile. Both were good.
I froze a few cups of cherries as an afterthought because I didn’t have time to get to them, but in retrospect wish I’d frozen more. Next year.