Over one million people visit Washington, D.C. every spring to celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival celebrates friendship between the USA and Japan, and an initial gift of 3,000 cherry trees that were given to the city from the people of Tokyo and planted along the tidal basin of the Potomac River. The festival signifies the beginning of spring in the city, and has been held since the first celebration in 1927. The 1900 Farm enjoys cherry blossoms every year as well, but unlike most ornamental cherry trees, our cherry blossoms aren’t just for show. The renowned trees in Washington are Japanese Flowering Cherry trees. They bloom, and look beautiful, but are distinctly different from fruiting cherry trees, the likes of which were grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Our cherry trees bloom each April and by June, the blooms turn into lovely sour red fruits, fruits that are then turned into delicious pies and pastries in the farm kitchen. Our large cherry tree is a Morello variety cherry tree and our small cherry tree is a Montmorency. Sour cherry trees are largely self-pollinating, meaning you don’t need more than one tree to bear fruit. Apple and Pear trees are not as easy to grow, relying on buddy trees and honeybees for pollination. In a previous post, Farmer Kelly talked about the vital role honeybees play in pollination two spring ago – you can read it here. While I like apples and pears, I most look forward to the summer cherry harvest. Both varieties of our cherry trees produce an abundance of fruit which are diligently harvested and pitted by the staff of the 1900 Farm. By 1900, commercial cherry pitters of different styles were available from the catalog companies. We have two kinds of pitters in the collection at the 1900 Farm. This is a catalog page showing the different types of cherry “stoners” available. These machines were called cherry “stoners” because they removed the seeds, or “stones” from the cherries. I can usually pit faster and better with a simple paring knife. When using the cherry pitter it is not uncommon to find a pit or two in your dessert, and that is disappointing in a tasty cherry pie. Speaking of cherry pie, I thought I might pass along a couple of cherry recipes to you. These fritters are made with preserved cherries, which you can find all through the year at your local grocer:
2 cups scalded milk
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup corn-starch
¼ cup cold milk
¼ cup flour
Yolks 3 eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup Maraschino cherries cut in halves
Mix corn-starch, flour, sugar, and salt. Dilute with cold milk and add beaten egg yolks; then add gradually to the scalded milk and cook fifteen minutes in double boiler, stirring constantly until thickened. Add cherries, pour into a buttered shallow tin, and cool. Turn onto a floured board, cut into squares, diamonds, or strips, dip in flour, egg, and crumbs, fry in deep fat, and drain. Serve with Maraschino Sauce.
⅔ cup boiling water
¼ cup Maraschino cherries cut in halves
⅓ cup sugar
½ cup Maraschino syrup
2 tablespoons corn-starch
½ tablespoon butter
Mix sugar and corn-starch, add gradually to boiling water, stirring constantly. Boil five minutes, and add cherries, syrup, and butter. Both above recipes from The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, 1896.
If you don’t mind waiting for the cherries on the tree to ripen you can try these recipes:
To one gallon of wild cherries add enough good whiskey to cover the fruit. Let soak two or three weeks and then drain off the liquor. Mash the cherries without breaking the stones and strain through a jelly-bag; add this liquor to that already drained off. Make a syrup with a gill of water and a pound of white sugar to every two quarts of liquor thus prepared; still in well and bottle, and tightly cork. A common way of making cherry bounce is to put wild cherries and whiskey together in a jug and use the liquor as wanted. From The Settlement House Cookbook, 1904.
Click here for a detailed cherry pie (cherry-tart) recipe from 1886, complete with a picture! Thanks to the Feeding America website through the University of Michigan for digitizing many historic cookbooks.
– Farmer Erin, at the 1900 Horse-Powered Farm