The weather is still trying to make up its mind as to whether it’s spring or if we’ve reverted to autumn. The trees are all leafed out, the Indian paintbrushes are blooming profusely and last, but not least the bluebonnets are getting thicker and thicker. This week, I’ll be on my way to and from Devine and I’m totally excited to get to see the roadside display of Mother Nature’s handiwork. To me, the bluebonnets seem to be a little late, as they’re usually out before the Indian paintbrushes, or at least simultaneously, but maybe it’s just my imagination. Anyway you look at it, the countryside is totally beautiful, with the bright yellow of broom weed, the tiny wine cups adding their deep wine coloring close to the ground, the pink and white of evening primroses (butter cups), and I’m willing to bet I’ll be seeing both magenta and white prickly poppies somewhere on my trip. Until several years ago when Sam and I were going to Pleasanton regularly with his treatments, I was not aware that that flower came in two colors as all I had ever seen was the white, but between Charlotte and Pleasanton, the fields were solid with the magenta colored plants. (That was back when the road was being worked on between Devine and Kyote, we had to go the long way round due to appointment times and having to wait for “follow me” cars.)
This past week, my sister and I went to our local nursery and each of us got a few plants to place in pots. Then, a couple of other ladies and I went to Victoria to the “Master Gardner’s” Annual Plant Sale. Yes, I came back with artillery fern, for outside and then some ice plant for in front of my living room window, as well as a small pot of basil. We then went to an estate sale here in Yoakum and I found three galvanized buckets to use as planters. The smaller one already has the artillery fern in it and it is gorgeous. The blossoms will be red, as there is a very tiny one peeking out from between the leaves. One of my purchases at the nursery with my sister was a tomato plant that is now growing in its “upside down” pot and it seems to be flourishing. Time will tell and hopefully, so will taste! The variety I purchased was the tiny red cherry type that grows in clusters, so I’m looking forward to see what happens.
This week we are going to talk about a fruit that is not common to our area. This fruit is the cherry. They are available in our grocery stores year around in cans or frozen, but as a fresh fruit for only a short time. We are all familiar with the cans of tart cherries that we add our own sugar and thickeners to, as well as several other varieties in cans that are ready to use as pie or tart fillings, or toppings for luscious desserts or ice cream.
In going online to look for information “Wikipedia the free encyclopedia” had a wealth of information as they usually do. Since I wanted to be thorough, I also checked in my Encyclopedia Britannica, and found about half a page of information. So, the information I’m giving you came from both sources.
According to the encyclopedia, next to the peach and plum, the cherry is the most important stone fruit grown in the United States. Cherries basically belong to two groups, the sour group and the sweet group. There are various varieties in each of these groups.
Sweet cherries are generally used for fresh fruit desserts or eaten as a fruit, just as you would a peach or plum or any other type of fresh fruit. However, the sour or tart cherries make up most of the frozen and canned cherries. They are processed and used by bakeries, restaurants and homes for pies, preserves and sauces, and are sometimes referred to as pie cherries.
Sweet cherries are mostly grown in Washington, California and Oregon, the varieties being “Bing”, “King”, “Rainier”, “Brooks”, and “Tulare”. Oregon and Michigan both grow the light “Royal Ann” cherries that are used to make maraschino cherries. The sour cherry varieties “Nanking” and “Evans” are grown in Michigan. The specific region of Northern Michigan that is best known the world over for tart cherry production is called the “Traverse Bay” region. Utah, New York and Washington are also tart cherry growing states.
The native habitat of the sweet cherry however is considered to be western Asia. They are also grown in portions of Canada and Australia. The town of Young in New South Wales, Australia is known as the “Cherry Capital of Australia”, and hosts the internationally famous National Cherry Festival. Cherries were first exported to Europe in Roman times, but by the Middle Ages had mostly disappeared in England. (They were reestablished by order of Henry VIII who had eaten them in Flanders.) Now, however the major commercial cherry orchards in Europe extend from the Iberian Peninsula east to Asia Minor and to a smaller extent may also be grown in the Baltic States and southern Scandinavia.
The English word cherry, cerise in French, the Spanish word ceresa and also a Southern dialect cerasa are all from classical Greek. Cherries have a long growing season and can grow in various places, including the great cold of the tundra. Christmas time, in Australia is when cherries are usually at their peak, in southern Europe and America, the peak is in June and in the UK the peak season is in mid July. In many parts of North America, cherries are the first tree fruits to ripen.
Now that you have all this information, let’s make a cherry pie, beginning with making our own crust! (Or, you can cheat, like I usually do and purchase the frozen pie crusts in an aluminum pan or use the boxed ones that are located by the canned biscuits, etc.)
(This makes a double crust for an 8-Inch or 9-inch pie)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup solid shortening
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
1 can cherry pie filling
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Mix flour and salt together, add shortening and using a pastry blender, two knives or a fork, cut the shortening into the mixture to make very fine crumbs. Ad water and mix only until moistened and dough leaves the sides of bowl. Roll out half of the dough and place into pie plate. Pour in the pie filling; roll out the other half of the dough and carefully place on top of the filling. Trim edges and crimp in a decorative pattern, cut several slits in top to allow steam to escape, sprinkle with a little sugar before baking in preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. (I like to brush the top crust with a small amount of milk before sprinkling with the sugar, it seems to brown better). Serve warm or cold. This is great warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!
Black Forest Dump Cake
(Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake)
1 box regular size chocolate cake mix
1 can cherry pie filling (21-oz)
(My thought for this is dark sweet cherry pie filling, did not work well made entire cake too dark)
1 can pitted dark sweet cherries, undrained
1 tsp. almond extract
1 stick butter (room temperature)
½ cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 375º. Spread pie filling into a lightly greased 13X9-inch baking dish, stir almond extract into undrained cherries and place on top of cherry pie filling. Set aside. Pour cake mix into a medium mixing bowl and using your pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the cake mix, (just as you would cut in shortening for pie crust), it should resemble coarse crumbs, spread this on top of the cherries, top with the sliced almonds and bake in preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until topping is set. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Their directions suggest that if you want to serve this with whipped topping to save a couple of tablespoons of the juice from the cherries and stir it into your whipped topping before serving).
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cans (21 ounces each) cherry pie filling
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts. Gradually add flour. Spread 3 cups dough into a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Spread with pie filling. Drop remaining dough by teaspoonfuls over filling. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. In a small bowl, mix confectioners’ sugar, extracts and enough milk to reach desired consistency; drizzle over top. Yield: 5 dozen.
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
1 can cherry pie filling (21-oz)
½ tsp. almond extract
Preheat oven to 350º. Melt butter in a 9×13 baking pan and set aside. Beat the egg, milk and vanilla together, stir into the combined dry ingredients and mix to make soft dough. Pour dough mixture into prepared pan; stir the almond extract into the cherry pie filling; spoon and spread filling over the dough in the pan. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, sprinkle top of mixture with 2 to 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and continue baking another 20 to 25 minutes or until done. Serve warm or cold, either plain or with whipped topping or ice cream. Enjoy!