This is a blog about home canning—or "putting up" as one might say where I'm from—and it will cover jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes) and the complement of condiments that includes relishes, sauces, salsas and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.

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Thursday
Jul082010

Cherry Tyme Pie Cherries

NEWS FLASH!

If you're in Southern California, please be advised that fruit hunter Akasha Richmond, the trans-cosmic talent behind my favorite Culver City resto Akasha, has sourced the only pick-your-own sour cherry orchard in Southern California. It's called Cherry Tyme Pie Cherries, because what they grow at this unique orchard is three kinds of sour cherries, the world's best baking and preserving cherry.

Today Akasha, Alan and I went to make our pick of the harvest. She wants to make pies. I need to put up a few more treats for Rosette, the Turkish Tigress, and for the divine Dmitri, the maitre d' at the Sunset Tower who hails from Macedonia and, as I recently learned, loves sweet preserves made from quince, Seville orange and, above all, sour cherries. ("When I was growing up, such jams and preserves were a part of every household," was the lovely way he put it.)

 

Cherry Tyme was like a gift for Akasha and me both. The orchard is hidden at the top of a dry canyon in the Leona Valley cherry-growing region near Palmdale. It's as near the sticks as one could get in Southern California, and yet it is unexpectedly cosmopolitan. Signage is posted in English, Turkish and Farci, and I heard at least two different Eastern European languages while we picked. Cherry eaters from all across Europe and Western Asia, you see, venerate the noble sour cherry.

Cherry Tyme's Orchard Keeper, a sort of living scarecrow dressed all in white, told us that his Eastern European clientele prefers the Ballaton variety as it most closely resembles the fruit of their homeland. Turkish and Persians pickers prefer the English Morello, the sourst of them all. And the Montmorency is, despite it's French name, the classic American sour cherry.

"Thousands of acres of them are planted in the upper peninsula of Michigan," said the Orchard Keeper. "They're so perishable, you'll never see them for sale. They're used for juice."

(The Ballaton is darker and firmer than the others, while the Morello is intensely red inside and out, and the Montmorency yellow-fleshed.)

Akasha, Alan and I went out into the orchard and began to pick.

"You don't know how I feel," said Akasha as she plucked the first ruby beads. "I feel like I'm putting gold nuggets in a bucket. This is the unattainable."

As the sun rose towards its noontime apex, the temperature climbed to almost 100. Our spirits were willing but the reality of the work soon overtook us all.

"Too bad this farm isn't air conditioned," said Akasha.

And by the time we'd picked a total of 39 pounds of cherries (about an hour), we had gained a new respect for the tremendous hard work required to bring fruit to the market. Akasha tried to add her labor into the price of the pies she'd make from her hand-picked Morellos—and the price spiraled to crazy heights.

"These pies should sell for $10 a slice," she cried out. "These pies should sell at auction."

Myself, I'd gladly bid. Before Akasha found Cherry Tyme, I didn't think there was a chance of finding sour cherries in SoCal at any price.

But jammers best hurry. The 2010 harvest is nearly over.

"We'll be wiped out this weekend," said the Orchard Keeper.

There's no Tyme to waste.

Reader Comments (6)

We actually can get dried Montmorency cherries (they are cranberry colored when dried) here in Michigan. I'm also fortuate to have a large enough farmer's market here in town (they aren't common here - strange for a state with such agricultural bounty) that we actually get fresh northern Michigan cherries twice a week during the season. The Bings are to die for and the Raniers... well, they are the whole point of high mexapixel cameras. :D I've already had my fix of sweet Bing cherry jam, and Bings, Raniers, and sours have already found their way into the rumtoph.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Oh, now you've got me all excited! I LOVE Akasha's Buddhist comment, "This is the unattainable." For so long now, I've wanted to pickle sour cherries like Southern pickled peaches: for every gallon of cherries, 2 cups good cider vinegar, 4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup water and a well-chosen spice, like cinnamon stick or a couple of slices of ginger, briefly poaching the whole cherries in batches, stem and all, in the syrup, transferring them to jars, then covering them with boiling syrup. Let 'em sit long enough so the almondy flavor in the pit comes out. Serve in the winter with pork or duck. The unattainable, now attained.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom H.

Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I've been looking for sour cherries in SoCal (had all but given up hope). Looks like I'll be going picking tomorrow AM. Thank you thank you thank you.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKyle P

You can get sour cherries right now at Super King markets, an Armenian-owned chain of LA grocery stores.

They also have an amazing deli, which 12 kinds of feta (last time I counted) and at least that many kinds of salami.

Thank you so much for you lovely blog! Keep it up!

July 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

Darn! I'll have to wait until next year. I do love sour cherry pie --

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

I just called them and they told me they're out of business and that they're not doing the sour cherries anymore! I'm sad - I was soooo looking forward to canning sour cherries!!!!

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWarren

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