Sunday, December 29, 2013

Home Front: Cherry Harvest

This past solstice weekend, I took my whole family up to a cherry orchard, and we spent an hour or so, three adults, and late teen and two little ones, running about, foraging and feeding, till we had 10 kg of cherries picked, (and who knows how many eaten in the process).

This particular orchard was selling them at $10/kg so whilst we did spend a lot, it was massively less than the $20-$30/kg that they are, at the shops currently.

This is my partner Anstia helping Triceratops Girl collecting cherries (from every ladder they came across).
We aimed to take only the good fruit, and as few stalks as possible, because that sped up the prepping time later on, but does also speed up the rotting process (its an open wound ...).

Here is a bowl full of this years harvest, served chilled on a 30oC evening. However, 10 kg (22lbs) of any fresh produce is a lot of organic matter for even a tribe like mine to consume, especially a rich a source as these cherries were. So, it was time to can and jam!

My family (mothers side) is Danish, so we celebrate a Danish Giftmas, on the 24th, and one of my favourite deserts is the dark cherry soup, Kirsebærsuppe. We used 4 kg of cherries to make a giant pot of the soup, which left us with 2L (0.5gal) of leftover soup, which we jarred up hot in an old olive jar.

I wanted to try a few other ways of preserving the cherries, without making jam (we have the last two seasons of fruit windfalls as jam still and are just finishing off jars from the first year we did it. Some went into the duck-stuffing for example).
We candied (boiling in 1:1 sugar:water by mass), then dehydrated one set of pitted cherries. This worked out really well and we filled two trays of my dehydrator with them, and two jam-jars as a result.

I also preserved a jar's worth in simple syrup (which has a terrible leaking habit, seemed to bypass the seals on its jars every time I make it). These were unpitted and I expect them to take a while to candy up, and slowly leach flavour into the syrup.

Here's a side-by-side of the cherry soup,  beside the one of the jars of pitted cherries in Glögg. Glögg is a spiced, sweetened red wine (in this case) with an alcohol content of 12% vol which always seems to have more kick that expected. Perfect for preserving fruit and will make for a welcome treat come winter.

We used the similar sized olive jars as for the soup, and filled them with the pitted cherries, followed by a 750mL bottle of Glögg in each. Perfect size!

A welcome side effect from doing the candied cherries was that the syrup that remained was infused with the cherry juices that cooked out, and I was not going to let THAT go to waste. So, we found some swing top bottles that I had been keeping (always prepared), and funneled it in.

This home made cordial was almost black, it was such a dark red, and tastes amazing diluted with water, soda water and poured over ice-cream. I imagine I will make use of it in constructing boozy cocktails in the near future.

All of these preservation methods (candying, pickling, canning in syrup and reducing to cordial) are all super simple, cheep and will result in a long lasting commodity and resource, for trade, and off-season boosts to our table.

Lots of preppers recommend having tradable items, and this is a great example of one we're only too happy to produce and stock.

Here's the one tool that made the whole job SO much easier (and praise be my partner Omega, who used it to such effect). A cherry pitter!

This little tool took so much trouble out of de-stoning the 8kg or so of cherries we needed pitted. If you plan on doing a big load of cherries, you would do well to pick one or two of these up. Here's a cool link for a person who made their own!

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