Sweet and Savory Cherry Recipes

Use your bumper crop of fruit to create sweet and savory cherry recipes. Includes recipes for cherry coffee cake, grilled chicken salad with cherry vinaigrette, maple cherry sauce and cherry cheesecake bars.

| June/July 1996

  • 156-070-01
    Cherry cheesecake bars.

  • 156-070-01

MOTHER's Kitchen column shares how to make the most of your crop of cherries, including a number of delicious sweet and savory cherry recipes. 

Sweet and Savory Cherry Recipes

Michigan is fighting the title of Cherry Capital of the World, and Anne Vassal defends the home turf with the best fruit recipes you've ever tasted. We can't wait for our annual journey to southwestern Michigan for a day of cherry pickin'. Those ripe, juicy cherries almost fall into our hands, with many of them ending up in our mouths. None of those supermarket Pacific Bing cherries for me, nor would I dream of buying hard, tasteless South American or New Zealand cherries in the dead of winter. I can wait for the real thing. OK, so I'm a slightly biased ex-Michiganer, but cherries don't get any better than Traverse City in mid-July. (Door County, Wisconsin, is close behind.) Last summer my teenage son ate two pounds of sweet cherries while traveling home alone on a plane from Traverse City. His excuse for not saving me even one was, "They were too good." Anyway, after we pick more cherries than we can possibly consume, we treat ourselves to a huge piece of cherry pie from the local bakery. (Sure, I know there's lard in the crust but I don't care.)

Even though Traverse City, Michigan, and Vignola, Italy, both claim to be the cherry capital of the world (Traverse City grows more cherries but Vignola's been growing them longer), it's the Pacific Northwest that accounts for 70 percent of the sweet cherry production, while Michigan produces three-quarters of our sour (or tart) cherries. Why have a sour cherry? Mostly, they're needed for commercial processing into frozen and canned products such as pie filling. Some folks swear by fresh sour cherries for their homemade pies. And we can thank those same cherry plants for producing the maraschino cherries swirling in the bottom of our Shirley Temple cocktails.

Nutritionally, cherries are very much like most fruit in that they contain antioxidants such as vitamin C and betacarotene. Plus, they are loaded with fiber, and studies have shown that fruit fiber can help fight high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. Take advantage of this season's cherries by using them in muffins, pancakes, fruit shakes, salsas, salads, jams, and of course, pies. And there's no need to limit cherries just to desserts. Ray Pleva, a butcher in Cedar, Michigan, found this out when he began to experiment with using tart cherries in his ground beef and sausage. It was only after his daughter was crowned National Cherry Queen that Ray became aware of some of the problems facing Michigan's troubled cherry industry. He not only developed a healthier, better-tasting burger but he found that the cherries' antioxidants kept the meat fresher longer. Ray continues to make a dent in Michigan's cherry surplus by distributing his cherry meat all over the country.

This brings to mind the question of why everyone east of the Mississippi is buying Northwest cherries at the supermarket instead of locally grown fruit. According to James Flore, professor of horticulture at Michigan State University, rain is the industry's biggest problem. "Ripe berries will split open if they get wet at the wrong time, making the crop unpredictable." Supermarket chains can't gamble on the weather when they've placed orders and arranged for advertisements months in advance, says a Chicago produce manager. Sure, Northwest growers have the same problem but their huge industry can afford overhead orchard fans or helicopters to blow the water off the cherry orchards. Once again, big business reigns. But who needs jet-lagged fruit? Take a drive and find a local produce stand.

Choosing Cherries 


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