Cherry-ripe

[eta: typos]

It’s mid-July (can’t believe the summer is half over). In the ongoing quest to reclaim my life, or in any case figure out what that even means, I’m starting to revise my diet back to the way I cooked before I was making all of dad’s meals.

This means I can add strong flavors and unfamiliar components again.

Mini-gnocchi with sage / brown butter sauce and a sprinkling of (domestic) Parmesan. I did not make the gnocchi, but I did use De Cecco and I hope that absolves me among the foodies.

I’m also aided by the fact of summer and the rush to eat fresh local fruits and vegetables (this is a mania of mine that was seeded in my youth and has accelerated rapidly in recent years).

Salad of fresh green peas with green onion, cherry tomatoes, and hard-boiled eggs, dressed with mayo / sour cream / milk, salt and pepper. The variant of this dish with ham or bacon and cheddar cheese was something that I used to see here on every summer picnic or brunch table when I was a teen.

And then there’s the CSA box. It’s a lot because I reserved one for two adults, and now it’s only me. This week, for instance, I got: green beans, rainbow chard, carrots, beets, thyme, a green lettuce, a red lettuce, young onions (not scallions — fully grown but not cured), and daikon radishes. My go to has been to sauté or shred/cut whatever is in the box and eat it on top of the lettuce in the box, sometimes adding a protein, and a judicious application of Brianna’s vinaigrette. I’ve also made some soups (I loved the garlic scape one, I was meh on the radish soup.) Over time my goal is to move back to kashrut or at least kashrut-adjacency (once I eat or give away all the tref that is still in the freezer). I’m already eating way less meat.

And Monday I gave into nostalgia and did something I haven’t done since the 1970s, with my grandparents — I drove up into Door County for the cherries.

You’ll notice that I somehow managed to drive past Luxembourg, Brussels, and Denmark, all in only 100 miles. American geography gets a lot done in small spaces. It wasn’t a long trip, but since we sort of canceled last summer, it feels vastly liberating.

The peninsula is seeded with a lot of farms and orchards — not just cherry. But the cherries are the most well-known. They are Montmorency cherries — tart. Also, I think because the ripe cherries don’t travel well, if you want them, you have to go get them. Unprocessed, they don’t even come one hundred miles to us. They are very juicy and fragile.

Two ice cream pails full of Montmorency cherries. Ignore all the crap in my car. I promise you I washed them!

The concrete fact that pushed me into this trip was that the cherries we usually get (Bing cherries from the Pacific Northwest) are basically inedible this year, due to the heat wave. They’re in the stores, but they are shriveled and not very sweet. Living in Germany spoiled me badly — where I could just walk onto the Wochenmarkt during the season and buy a kilo and eat that for supper. Both the German cherries and Bing cherries are sweet, whereas the Door County cherries are (mostly) tart, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to replicate all-cherry meals. But I decided I had to have some, so I drove up.

I did eat probably a quart of them, but they’re a bit hard on the stomach to eat too many at once. And since I drove all that way (the first half of the drive is quick, on an interstate; the second half is mostly two-lane highway through a bunch of small resort towns), I decided I’d do something else that belongs to the 1970s in my mind, although people still do it.

George Washington’s favorite tipple: cherry bounce. Although I guess Martha made it with Morello cherries.

The virtue of this recipe is that it is as low-stress as food preservation can possibly be. Way less stressful than canning or drying or pie-making.

Wash your cherries. Pitting them is optional. Fill a receptacle about 2/3 full of cherries. Drop in some white refined sugar (this is the only calculation involved: a good 1/2 cup sugar per quart volume of the receptacle). Fill to the top with the spirit of your choice (in Wisconsin, usually brandy or whiskey. I made three different kinds: two jars with Bulleit rye, two with Makers Mark bourbon, and then ten with Kesslers). Cover and shake a bit to help dissolve the sugar (although it will gradually dissolve over time anyway). Put in a cool, dark place.

One and half gallons of cherries make twelve quarts of bounce. I ate some of the rest and gave a generous dish full to my new neighbors.

The bounce is ready to go into the basement to cure. I did top off a few of those jars, since if the cherries break through the surface of the brandy, they will spoil.

The bounce — called that because as the drink ripens, the cherries float to the top of the jar — will be ready in a month and keep up to two years. When ready to consume, open and strain the fruit from the alcohol. It was long a northeastern Wisconsin tradition that you put your cherries in whiskey in July and then had the first taste on Thanksgiving. I think people open their jugs now during the football season for tailgating, but it’s been a while. Anyway, the alcohol can be drunk straight or in the cocktail of your choice. The fruit is usually used to top vanilla ice cream (but if you do this, make sure people know that it is unpitted).

Aah. We’ll see how they come out.

On the way back, I kept noticing the Walloon place names, so I decided to stop at a Belgian restaurant for the quintessential Wisconsin-Belgian dish.

This is called “booyah.” It’s essentially a very thick soup with chicken, beef, noodles and vegetables. It’s not known where the name comes from, but one possibility is the Flemish word “bouyu,” possibly related to the French “bouillon.”

There wasn’t a huge immigration from Belgium to Wisconsin, but they hung on until WWI, when they stopped speaking Flemish, and then WWII, when the last people were born who still understood it. About ten years or so ago a researcher was trying to document it before everyone who remembered it died.

I also had a second course.

In southern Door County, this is called “trippe.”

I wish they’d had Belgian frites instead of these American ones. I don’t like French fries with a coating on them. I ate a few, but skipped the bread — these particular descendants of the Walloons must have left their bread tradition behind them. But the sausages were good. The distinguishing feature is that they are made with cooked cabbage inside the sausage. I guess it is only called “trippe” here any more — in Europe it’s called “saucisse de choux.”

The cherries will continue for another week or two, and who knows, I may go back for more. But this week the raspberries started.

Last year’s picture. This year’s are already a bit redder. The strawberries were a disappointment but we’re supposed to have a bumper crop of raspberries.

So I’m on my quest to make and eat as many of these as I can choke down:

Servetus’ favorite easy, low or no-bake raspberry pie. So juicy. Also last year’s picture.

But first, a serenade to the cherries:

And what the heck, why not a second one? Armitage could definitely read this. Campion was a much better poet than Hughes.

~ by Servetus on July 17, 2021.

26 Responses to “Cherry-ripe”

  1. Yum! Those cherries are so beautiful they hardly look real.

    Liked by 2 people

    • They are so juicy inside that they’re practically translucent. But somehow also sturdy enough to pick. You put one in your hand and think it’s got to be punctured just from being touched, but they hold up somehow.

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  2. Your lucky being close to Wisconsin cherries. I buy the Bing ones that we eat a large amount of each year. They seemed fine this year other than one batch was tasteless and dry tasting. The local strawberries I got one batch was fine and the other one watery tasting. The place I got the strawberries from quit growing raspberries but I see the wild ones are staring to get ripe. We where unable to get raspberry plants from my late MIL yard before the house was sold. Last time we when to Door county was 2006 after cherry season was over. My husband put peaches in brandy a few years ago but never cherries.

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    • I’m glad you got good Bing cherries. I tried three different times at our local market and they were all disappointing. The strawberries here were a bust this year. The weekend after they went in, it froze; it didn’t rain at all for three weeks in late May – early June; and then it poured (heavy rain = watery berries). The grower closest to us is reducing the amount of field devoted to strawberries because they’ve had three bad years in a row — our weather may no longer be really suitable for them, I guess. This makes me really sad as they played a big role in my childhood. It’s a shame about your MIL’s raspberries — I don’t know a lot about how they are raised. My mother’s cousin has some, and she’s my usual source, but I haven’t been able to go there now two summers because her husband has COPD and they’re worried about COVID. He’s essentially been inside his house for eighteen months now.

      I love peaches in brandy! I’ve also always felt this was a great part of the state to live in (spring snow being the one exception — and every now and then I get annoyed about having to drive around a lake when I want to go somewhere directly). Of course you are closer to the fish!

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      • My husband said that there will be hardly any pears from our two trees this year. He makes a batch of wine from them. It frosted right after they where in blossom. They are a week to two weeks ahead of our apple trees. The apples are spotty also. One tree looks good as long as the deer don’t eat all the green ones. The other three a few. The one that has a lot is a good eating apple and applesauce and the other three for baking and eating.

        That is sad about the strawberries. Nothing taste the same as a local berry. With that I still but store ones all summer as I love berries and lets not forget cherries. When I was little my parents and mom’s dad would pick wild berries, they would take me with but I would hardly put anything in the bucket and in the end I would end up eating those too. My mom would drive me to sit with my grandma at the senior center where grandma was the director. The raspberries my MIL had where easy other than to every couple years to cut back the died canes to let the new ones grow. We bought some 12 years ago that when we picked them they fell apart. We got ride of them. My MIL had the best raspberries I have ever ate other than the smaller wild ones.

        Yes I guess we do have the fish. I don’t fish and my husband only goes a couple times a year. He does manage to find someone to get some lake smelt every year.

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        • I lost all our fruit trees in the move — they were quite old, though, and we left the fruit for the deer most of the time anyway. Our pear only bore every other year or so. I have heard other depressing forecasts for apples this fall.

          I’m totally with you on local berries and also on those memories of berrying with family / grandparents. When the blackberries were ripe we got a dish of them in milk for breakfast — seems like an age ago.

          It seems like when I was little we were eating local fish all the time. But yeah, not so much any more.

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  3. 🙂 good idea with food collected before snowfall, like squirrel’s caches.
    You can live throught winter with all the Secret Squirrel stuff,

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  4. Those cherries look magnificent, I am salivating looking at them. And I love cherry brandy. I did not know Wiscounsin is associated with cherries.
    Glad you are finding inspiration in the kitchen – that pea salad looks delicious too. Bon apetite!

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    • We’re fifth in the nation, and it all comes out of one or two counties on the peninsula that extends into Lake Michigan. They are not native plants; they were transported by the French who settled here, so they are found along the coast of the lake, but they are much bigger deal in Michigan than here.

      Thanks for the good wishes. I can feel my creativity slowly returning. Hopefully by the fall (when the fresh local foods are dormant) I’ll be able to switch to something else.

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  5. we used to do “pick your own” fruit quite a lot when we were young, but I don’t even know if you can do it here now.

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    • We still have it all over the place (including during the covid lockdown last summer). I picked these cherries (which seems like an exaggeration of the effort I put into it — cherry picking is not hard in amounts like this) in order to get the discount, but I don’t do “you – pick” strawberries anymore.

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  6. How liberating it must be for you now to eat what you like and go where you please. Gnocchi with sage, scrumptious. There is something so joyful about cherries, with or without alcohol and I love the little maraschino cherry.

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    • I feel like cherries are sort of a safe invitation to excess. I told Obscura I was going and she misunderstood and thought I was getting sweet cherries, and she said, “I just bought a big bunch at the supermarket and I will eat them until I can’t anymore tonight.” But then in a few weeks they are gone and we wait until next summer.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This all looks really delicious. Now I am cake-hungry 🙂

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  8. MMM…pie. Looks like you had a good haul. We are under a heat advisory and picking are slim at the U-picks.

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    • I’m sorry about your heat — we seem to be one of the few parts of North America that is still having a temperate summer this year (although I don’t want to jinx it!).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s so good to read this, Servetus. I’m glad you can start building your own life again.
    As for the cherries, wow on the recipes! It all looks very yummy. 🙂
    And LOL on your driving route – it’s always very amusing to me to see these European places crop up in US town names.

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    • There were a lot of Flemish-ish names right there: Duval, Rosiere, Namur. Oh, and Denmark is on county highway DK. That can’t have been accidental.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That cherry recipe sounds amazing! I’m glad you get to cook the way you like it now.

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    • I was musing last night about a cherry pie, but I think I’m going to refrain for now. Food makes such a difference! I always look at your pictures with interest.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow! Really interested that there’s a Belgian / Wisconsin connection. Love that there are some Belgian place names there. I did once go through Belgium, West Virginia, which I thought was kind of cool.
    Never heard of the Flemish word bouyu but I guess booyah just comes directly from the French bouillon. Looks like it. Especially since Namur and Rosieres are Walloon, not Flemish. Duvel isn’t a place, it’s an old brewery in Ghent.
    Do you know any more about the Belgians who migrated there? Wondering why they spoke Flemish yet used Walloon place names.
    Thanks for introducing me to this subject!

    Like

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