I went home to visit my parents in Pennsylvania recently. They’re very much into growing and preserving and all those things I’m trying to do, except they’re good at it. Fresh food from the garden was always a given when I was growing up. Although that apple tree has produced one decent crop in my lifetime, and it was the year the fourth Harry Potter book came out.
Summer arrives here quite a few weeks later than in Rhode Island, so there wasn’t much in the way of ripeness yet. I did pick a huge amount of rhubarb to bring back with me, though. My first batch I brought inside to cut apart nicely on a cutting board. Then my mom told me she hacks it up right in the garden, machete style. I did another batch, and it was deeply satisfying.
When I came downstairs one morning, at an abysmally late hour by my parents’ standards, I was informed that the local orchard had cherries that weekend, and we had to jump on the opportunity before they were all gone! I threw on an old shirt and we took off to beat the rabble.
It was a rainy morning, so the rabble wasn’t out yet, and we went a little overboard, picking 37 pounds of cherries. We’d brought our own buckets, but the orchard owner loaned us a few of her buckets with hooks for hanging from the tree, “to make picking easier.” Ideally, we’d then transfer the cherries to our buckets. But once we’d filled up the loaners, it felt silly not to fill ours as well. It was a flawless grift. I’m onto you, orchard woman.
Of course, on a hot summer day, you have to act quickly before your 37 pounds of cherries squish. Some, obviously, did not survive the ride home. And some had to be saved for general eating. As for the rest, an afternoon-long pitting and freezing operation was established.
We settled for the first cherry pitter to be uncovered. I believe this one was my mom’s originally.
Cherries have a dishearteningly low pit to meat ratio. One does not simply cut a cherry apart cleanly with a knife. The only way to go about it and not completely lose your mind is to pulverize the whole thing and accept the fact that you’re not going to get every last ounce of fruit and juice. Even by the end of this this method, I could feel my sanity slipping slightly. But in a good way.
I mentioned that I’d been considering trying infusing, and my mom fetched a bottle of vodka. For the long haul we filled up this jar with whole cherries. I didn’t get to try it before leaving, sadly. For the moment, though, we mixed up a slurry of vodka and squashed cherries. It was really very good, and made the remaining pitting process a lot more bearable.