Cherry picking in Upstate New YorkBy Aissa dela Cruz
Cebu Daily News
IDEALLY, cherry picking must be scheduled early in the morning to avoid the scorching summer sun and to get to pick the choice fruits. Cherry season is fleeting so the pickings are scheduled when the fruits are almost ripe. We missed the sweet red cherries in June but we were able to catch up and pick the black sour ones, also known as Morello cherry last 4th of July. From New York City, the 136-mile drive to the Fix Brothers cherry orchard in the heart of Hudson Valley was approximately two hours, crossing the scenic Hudson River along the Tappan Zee bridge. We missed our turn to get to the orchards, which meant earlier pickers got the good ones. It was noon when we got to the cherry orchards and the trees were almost bare. We were told that cherry pickers came an hour before the orchard opened at 8 a.m. Cherries are temperate stone fruits with a fleshy part around a pit or stone. Stone fruits also include peach, apricots, plums, prunes and nectarines. Cherries are summer fruits so they are now in abundance. The sweet cherries we get from the supermarkets are cherry cultivars called “Bing”. I so love these fruits! I can eat a big bowl of Bing cherries (a deliciously sweet cultivar that maybe available back home when in season). I hand-carried Bing cherries once from a Hong Kong trip.
My daughter Patricia with kids Silvian and Sabrina immediately got their plastic pails and started picking the cherries with colors ranging from bright red to deep purple. I was fascinated looking at the cherries dangling from the branches of the cherry trees. Black sour cherries are deliciously tart and are good for cooking, baking and making liqueurs. I kept popping the ripe ones into my mouth while cherry picking, conjuring visions of fresh cherry pie and cherry filled pastries in my mind.
Cherries are very rich in antioxidants. Patricia’s Romanian friends picked cherries that filled a few pails, which I was told, will be fermented into wine. I was happy with a few pounds since I will be tasked to pit, bake and cook the cherries. With the black sour cherries safely packed, we drove to a nice park close by where we barbecued and had a picnic.
The following day, I picked up a box of chilled Pillsbury ready-to-bake 2-crust pie and a box of Quick Cooking Tapioca to bake the fresh cherry pie. I patiently pitted the cherries. I mixed 4 cups pitted cherries, 4 level tablespoons of tapioca, 1 cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon almond and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon salt and set aside for at least 15 minutes. The oven was preheated to 400 degrees F while I unrolled the bottom pie crust sheet on a pie plate. Then I carefully filled the bottom crust with the cherry mixture and dotted with slices of butter before covering with the top crust, fluted the edges, slit some vents and brushed with egg wash for a nice golden crust. The pie was baked for 40 to 50 minutes. Completely cooled, I served the pie slices a la mode topped with vanilla ice cream. Delightfully scrumptious on a hot summer day!