Before the madness of this last week’s weather, I managed to get out to the orchards again and pick around 40lbs of cherries, 12lbs of raspberries, and after the horrible weather, the blueberry bushes were still kind enough to bare 10lbs of their succulent orbs. Each berry was only around $1 a pound.
Believe me, I hadn’t really anticipated picking 40lbs of cherries, but what girl can deny the lure of such a seductive fruit; so vividly blushing with reds of every shade, so juicy that some even split before being consumed or falling to the earth, even the shape and size makes the perfect most pleasureful experience of slipping it into the mouth and sliding it so smoothly on to the tongue. The shape a woman’s lips make when biting into a cherry and the color it turns those lips can make any man’s toes curl. Needless to say, I was powerless to the heavy branches and tempting sweet fruits.
Once these maroon little beauties were in my possession I had an even more sensuous job for them: to infuse my alcohols for future late night seducing. The first of my liquor concoctions was “boozy cherries.” Pretty straight forward idea: middle shelf rum (I used the nondark Bicardi), grenadine (for color and sugar), and cherries. I packed the jars full with pitted cherries, filled the cracks with rum (other recipes called for bourbon or vodka), and left about an inch for grenadine. I also put cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans in some of the jars for a little something extra. I canned these for just a few minutes in the pressure canner, though in reading other blogs, I don’t think that was necessary. My mother and I drooled over the idea of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge (or a hot man), and these boozy cherries drizzled over top. Definitely something I am excited to cure my impending Eugene winter blues.
My next boozy idea was cherry wine/mead. I am not sure what constitutes a real “mead” but I did use honey as the sweetener. This is a completely local wine (minus the yeast) and was so easy. Basically, I blanched the cherries quickly to sterilize them, put them in mesh bags (like the ones I use for hops in brewing), added hot water, pectic enzyme (to clear cloudiness), honey, yeast nutrient, and yeast. Put all of it in a clean sterile bucket, waited about a week, removed the fruit, and then put it in a second fermenting jar to await drinking in two to three months.
My mother, so wonderfully, used her mad “thrifting” skills and found/bought me a (currently operating) dehydrator! Might I add, originally 65 dollars and purchased at St.Vincent for 12 dollars. Score! I already finished a batch of cherries and am currently working on some blueberries. The cherries took about 10-11 hours to dry (the instructions said 18-26) and the blueberries should take less time. I also froze some cherries and blueberries for future yogurt parfaits, pies, and crumbles. I think I will go out to Bear Fruit Berries for blueberries so I can try out a new farm and spread the wealth. I am a bit conflicted though because of their use of fungicides, something I need to work out internally (local v completely organic). Many farms in the area are not “certified” because of cost restrictions and previous land use. I may also try the Organic Redneck aka McKenzie River Organics, they are completely organic, but this season has been very difficult for them, so they may have a very small crop of berries. The farm is a little ways out Hwy 126, but the plus side to that is my excuse to eat delicious berries while soaking in the terwilliger hotsprings.
Oh, last fun thing I did, to get in the pickling mood, was make dilly beans. Green beans were washed and cut to the size of the jar. A brine of vinegar and salt was made. The beans were stuffed as tight as possible with dill and a clove of garlic into the jars and covered with the brine. They were then pressure canned at 10lbs of pressure for about 20 minutes. Delish!
Updates soon on books and films! Happy Summer!