Saturday, September 4, 2010

wild, wild cherry

I'll be travelling a lot this month, so I've been making the most of my time at home this weekend, staying close to the kitchen. After taking care of all the fresh produce (canning, drying, you know the drill), I allowed myself to dig into the freezer for the wild cherries. Before Mark left for KY last month we harvested several good cherry crops, both pin and black. Generous soul that he is, he let me keep more than my share.

Pin cherries (Prunus pennsylvanica) are the earliest wild cherries to ripen around here. This summer most fruit has been early, and the pin cherries started ripening the first week in July.

They're small (1/4-1/2" diameter), tart, and have large seeds, which makes for a lot of spitting and scrunched up faces if you eat them out of hand. Perfect for jelly, though. Contemporaneously ripe but absolutely not edible, are honeysuckle berries. Yes, they have a similar, bright red color, but unlike pin cherries, which hang in dangling clusters (see above), honeysuckle berries come in pairs.

Additionally, honeysuckle leaves are opposite and cherry leaves are alternate. One final i.d. characteristic:

black knot of cherry. It's a fungal disease that effects, you guessed it, cherry. Not honeysuckle.

Black cherries (P. serotina) ripen a few weeks later, and this year (so very hot and dry) we started picking the last week in July. As you may have guessed from their name, black cherries are ripe when they're black. Clusters ripen gradually, so exercise some self control and pick only the black ones.

Unripe black cherries have a strong astringent mouth feel; spread the harvest over a few weeks for the best crop. Very slightly larger than pin cherries, black cherries are also tart and also have large seeds...another excellent jelly fruit.

Mark made pin cherry jam, de-seeding every tiny fruit by hand, because he is insane. It was the most delicious jam I've ever had and I didn't share a spoonful. I opted for the easy way out, combining pin and black for a sweet/tart, ruby/garnet, wild cherry jelly.

(See how big the seeds are!)

Wild cherries, you cannot hide from me.

5 Comments:

At September 5, 2010 at 1:10 PM , Blogger Marie said...

He deseeded every one by hand?????

Ha, so honeysuckle were the ones I saw in MA. Good. Now I won't regret not eating them.

 
At September 5, 2010 at 1:32 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Yes, by hand. We read (in Nature's Garden by Sam Thayer) that pin cherry seeds, if broken or cracked, can spoil the taste of the juice, so Mark didn't want to risk using a food mill. I admired his dedication (and was happy to reap the rewards) but opted for the easier, jelly route myself.

 
At September 6, 2010 at 9:26 AM , Anonymous Mark said...

Marie: yes, by hand. Over 2 hours of squeezing tiny simmered fruits.

I can't wait to try the jelly ... a much more sensible product!

Ellen: already there are ripe spicebush berries in abundance in KY. So early. What to do with all that I froze last year and haven't used?

If it ever rains here, maybe there will be mushrumps.

 
At September 6, 2010 at 11:02 AM , Blogger SaraGardens said...

Mmmmmm... Beautiful!

 
At September 6, 2010 at 1:00 PM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Okay, Mark, you are insane. But generous--Lucky Ellen!

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home