Monday, June 7, 2010

Bowls of Cherries

This weekend was filled with joyful and fun events. Friday night we went to the DeYoung museum to see the end of the quilt exhibit. It was neat to see some Amish quilts from Arthur on the wall of a museum. It made me miss all the quilt auctions I have attended there and the beautiful quilts that were always offered. We also saw the newest exhibit that is visiting from France highlighting the beginning paintings of the Impressionists. It was a great show, and some of my favorite paintings were there for me to see in person and up close. It was also nice that we went on the Friday night as there were few people in the gallery when we were in there, so you could spend some good quality time with each canvas. On Sunday I went to a friend's baby blessing ceremony. It was beautiful and very relaxing. The setting was just gorgeous, and the women there were so friendly and wonderful. The above picture is of the blankets I made for the new baby we are all awaiting. They were fun and quick to make. I got the wonderful idea for them from a knitting group friend's blog. Brilliant and easy! I did mine a bit differently though by doubling up the fabric for each blanket. That way there was the pattern on each side of the blanket.

Saturday was my favorite day of this fun filled weekend. Dan and I went cherry picking in Brentwood. I was on the hunt for sour cherries. There is only one place to find them in the Bay Area from my research, so we headed out to Bacchini's Fruit Tree for their Montmorency cherry trees. They had more of them than I thought, so my panic to get there before they were picked clean was a now calmed fear. Ladders were at a premium since these cherries are a taller tree compared to the sweet trees. Having a tall husband was very much appreciated. Once a ladder was abandoned, I seized it and began picking high up in the canopy. Most people were there for the sweet cherries and not the sour ones. It was fun to hear people come into our grove all thrilled that here were "tons of unpicked ones here." Then they would undoubtedly taste one and exclaim how awful and sour they were along with the obligatory "Who wants these!" comments. Those of us on our ladders and with in eye contact range would look at each other with knowing smiles and laughs. It took us a few hours, but at the end we had 11 and a half pounds of sour cherries and three and a half of Rainier cherries for jam.

After getting some lunch, we drove home, and I set to work pitting. Cherries went into the sink to be cleaned and rinsed, stems were pulled, and then they went into the hopper of the pitter. The pitter I bought from Noropro was very good. It went through all 11 and a half pounds of cherries in a quick two hours. It beat doing them by hand any day! The big keys to keeping the pitter working was to make sure the metal plunger did not get clogged with cherry flesh or skins. Also, making sure that the plunger had some vegetable oil on it for lubrication was also key to clean and easy operation.

I loved that most of the cherries stayed whole! The only thing that told you there was no pit any longer was the two small holes in the cherry. The other fun thing was all the tiny X's that the pitter made of punched out cherry flesh where the pit was extracted. The pitter was also more gentle to the extra ripe cherries than I expected. very little juice was in the pit hopper each time I had to empty it out, and there was also little juice in the finished cherry bowl. This resulted in my having to smash the cherries in the colander to get the four cups of liquid I needed for making the goop part of the filling.

It was my first time using Clear Jel, and it was interesting. I would recommend that you whisk together your Clear Jel and sugar before adding in any liquid. I did not do this and just added the liquid to the unmixed powders which resulted in lots of clumps I had to beat out of the mix. Once it gelled up, it was super thick and hard to stir. Next the cherries went in all at once, and the stirring became even more difficult. I tried to stir as best as I could with out making a total mess of the stove. Then it was into the jars for canning. I ended up with two quarts and five full pints with almost another full quart in the fridge. I cannot wait to make a pie with it once I get back from my trip this week.

Today I am off for jogging day one of week three. I hope it goes well. This week is usually the last successful week I have in the program, and then I usually repeat the week or just stop all together. I am determined to do "week three" once and then move on to week four next week! The Rainier cherry jam is on the list of must do things today. I also have a birthday gift to finish for Jozef and some house cleaning and prep to do before I depart. It is going to be a busy day, but I am sure I can get it all done... especially with that handy dandy pitter!

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