Green Wizardries: Cherries

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I pray to powerful Gods such as Priapus, Saturn, Ceres and Jupiter for protection of my farm and livestock.  It seems to be working quite well.  This spring, we got overwhelmed with project work and we had a hard time getting everything done.  We staggered from job to job.  We kept looking at the cherry trees and saying things such as, “Tomorrow, we must net the cherries.  We didn’t get them netted!

About six weeks ago, during morning prayers, I thought to ask the Gods to send me band-tailed pigeons.  These are stately, native pigeons that were nearly wiped out by the settlers with their shotguns in pursuit of pigeon pie and similar.  We have seen a few around the edge of our farm over the years but none had ever come to our feeder.  I was just hoping a few might come and coo at us from the edge of the forest.

I went downstairs after prayers and was making the morning coffee when I hear my husband shout, “Look at the bird feeder now!”  There were five band-tailed pigeons jostling on our small feeding table and they were soon joined by another pair.  We have had them every day since and I adore them.  They are very pretty, large birds and their coo is very soothing.  A friend who grew up here told me they are terrible cherry thieves which may have been one reason the settlers shot them.  

Due to what I can only suppose was divine intervention, none of the pigeons or other birds got into our cherries.  We were able to go picking every day for a week and collect only the ripest cherries.  We did one huge pick of most of the crop and after that, a few birds came in to dine on the remaining few fruit but it was by no means a massacre.  

An orchardist came over to help us with a technical issue and he was amazed to see our cherry trees standing, laden with fruit and untouched by birds.  He said that if he tried that at his place, there would not be a single cherry left.  

We stone and freeze a lot of the cherries on trays and then load them into freezer bags as we love to have them in fruit salads in the winter.  They also make great ice cream.  We put a can of coconut milk in the blender and drop the frozen fruit in one by one, add a little sweetener and have really nutritious ice cream.  

We also like to make Rumtopf.  This is an excellent way to preserve fruit and I have this recipe from a woman who made some and gave it to Peter Karsten to try.  He said it was just like what his Mom used to make in Germany, so the recipe is really good.  

You need a big crock or large glass jar in which you layer fruit as it comes ripe.  You put in a layer of fruit and cover it with white sugar and then cover that all with dark rum.  The next fruit to come ripe goes in on top with more sugar and rum to cover.  Do not stir!  You make this in the summer to serve in the winter. 

I was told the Germans like to put it on cakes or ice cream which sounds jolly good.  I use  the resulting drunken fruit to make Christmas cakes and there is really nothing better.  I also make my own candied peel from organically-produced citrus fruit for those cakes and it is very easy to make candied peel.  I will put a recipe in a future article as the citrus is only good in the winter.

A lovely friend also taught me to make maraschino cherries and cherry brandy.  For this, we use sour cherries, also called pie cherries, and they grow very well here.  For the Rumtopf, I use both sour and sweet cherries but for the maraschino cherries, only sour cherries will do.

We bought most of our cherry trees from Beulah Creek Nursery on Hornby and have always found them to be excellent.   Our sour cherries do very well here and of the sweet cherries, Bing seems to do the best for us.  Your results may vary.  

The recipe for the maraschino cherries is three cups of sour cherries covered by two cups of white sugar and two cups of vodka.  Keep adding more fruit and so on as people really love these cherries and they make great gifts.  Shake the jar every couple of days and leave in a cool dark place for a couple of months.  You will have a lot of syrup from this and I bottle it and serve it as cherry brandy.  I have had people say it is the best thing they have ever tasted.

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