Saturday, July 18, 2015

July is for Cherry Pie

When I think of July I think of cherry pie. The Upper Peninsula (the U.P.) of Michigan is known for its cherries. One day I hope to make a stop at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse, MI between July 4-11.

Float at the National Cherry Festival in the 1960s

Michigan farmer's market in July

Montmorency cherries growing on the tree

cherry cornmeal pie from Scratch Bakery in Durham NC
Scratch Bakery in Durham NC incorporates two tastes of summer (cherries and corn) together by making their cherry pie crust and crumble top with cornmeal. Phoebe (the James Beard Award nominated pastry chef at Scratch Bakery and formerly of the award-winning Magnolia Cafe) sources her sour cherries from Leavering Orchard in Virginia. Using sour rather than sweet cherries helps to create a more balanced pie. I find that almond is a natural pair for cherries, so I like to add almond extract, almond meal, or sliced almonds to cherry pies as in this Sour Cherry Almond Tart recipe. Adding dried cherries and Marcona almonds to chocolate chip cookies is another great pairing.

OXO Good Grips cherry pitter has a clear extension that helps to stop the spatter of cherry juice during pitting
If you are willing to do the work to pit your cherries by hand you will be rewarded. A cherry pie or claufouti with fresh pitted cherries is less sweet and not as runny as with the canned cherry pie filling. The best cherry pitter that I've used is the one from OXO Good Grips, but I default to OXO for having the best cooking tools in general after watching their design process in the documentary "Objectified" by Gary Hustwit. They really deeply examine the variation of in how different types of people use tools.

Outside of the pie realm on the cherry note, I think cherries are a great pairing for duck, lamb, and green tea ice cream.
cherry pie at Cleiburne Cafeteria in Houston, TX

Two of my favorite suppliers for dried cherries are Chukar Cherries in Washington state and Cherry Republic in Michigan. >95% of all cherries in the U.S. are Montmorency cherries but as global climate change is altering weather patterns (where there is a pleasant warm up in late winter followed by a plunge to the more seasonal temps) some wild ancestral cherries that require more warm time to initiate inflorescence, like Balaton, are being tested by U.S. cherry growers.They offer a variety of cherry products besides pie filling and dried cherries including cherry salsa and cherry-studded baked products. Chukar has a nice set of cherry recipes. Chukar Cherry Recipes

The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. in early spring actually had a big influence on the US Customs Office. The first trees from Japan had pest infection and had to be destroyed, much to the embarrassment of both the U.S. and Japanese governments. The event was actually a personal battle between two government officials who were very anti- and pro-import on novel plants that headed the Customs and Import bureaus, respectively. The Japanese take gift-giving deadly seriously, and took this situation as a challenge to grow pathogen-free replacement trees. They did pretty well, but actually did cause several pest outbreaks only recognized later. 


  1. Article on Loveland CO Cherry Festival

  2. Article on Loveland CO Cherry Festival