We, at Prospect Hill Orchards, are pleased to announce the beginning of our cherry season on June 15th. (Be sure to check our website, www.prospecthillorchards.com, for exact days and times.). The arrival of the cherry crop marks the beginning of summer and all the delicious fruits that will ripen as the season progresses. Just a few local orchards grow sweet and sour cherries. We are proud to be one of them!
Sweet cherries are very weather sensitive. Early in spring after bloom, we worry about each cool and cloudy day because if the trees don’t’ get enough sunlight the fruit will not grow. Later, we worry about each rainy day because as the cherries ripen they split open if they get too much water all at once. You can imagine the “pins and needles” we experience as the days and weeks go by! We grow several varieties of sweet cherries which result in a succession of fruits ripe for about 2 or 3 weeks, depending on the year and the size of the crop. We grow Ulster, Hedelfingen, Sweetheart, Heartland, Royalton and Hudson cherries which are all dark purple-red and sweet!
Sour (tart) cherries ripen about a week later that the early sweet varieties. In America, Montmorency is the most well- known sour variety. They are very juicy, sour and bright red. Recently two new sour cherries have been introduced from Hungary, called Balaton and Danube. These cherries are larger, firmer and darker red than the Montmorency. They are not as sour either which makes them delicious eaten “out of hand” or in a delicious pie or cobbler!
Buying fresh sweet or sour cherries locally can be a little tricky, but is worth the effort. In the Hudson Valley, many are sold “pick your own” and the season is very short, usually a weekend or two! Pick cherries with the stems on. This assures you the highest quality fruits when you arrive home. Without the stems the juices begin to leak out and cherries begin to soften. This shortens their shelf life and makes them less attractive to serve fresh. Look for cherries in season at your local farmer’s market.
Here is a recipe for a cold cherry soup which is best made with sour cherries but can work nearly as well with sweet ones, just decrease the sugar to taste and cook the sweets a little longer. It is a wonderful luncheon entrée or appetizer on a hot, summer day!
Cold Cherry Soup
1 lb. cherries, pitted
1/3 – ¾ cup sugar (to taste)
1bottle Riesling (optional- may also use water)
Pinch or two of cinnamon
1 lemon, rind grated and juice squeezed
1 pint sour cream or yogurt
Pit the cherries over a pan to catch the juices. Combine cherry juice, sugar, Riesling (or water) In a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer about 5 – 10 minutes. Add cinnamon, rind and juice of the lemon. Add whole pitted cherries and boil about one more minute. Cool. Put the sour cream (yogurt) in a bowl and whisk in the liquid from the soup. The soup should be a light pink color. Add the cherry pieces and stir. Refrigerate. Serve very cold.