Robins have returned to the Sidewalk House ~ and for them, a highly anticipated feast of cherries is reason enough to stay. Before long, our cherry tree will burst into bloom! And then there will be tiny green cherries forming inside the fading flowers.
And then, before we can blink an eye, we will be fighting the robins ~ yes, the same ones we wait for and celebrate. They will be filling their tummies with juicy, red cherries right off our tree.
During our brief courtship, Captain Romance and I celebrated our first Valentine’s Day. He gave me a box of chocolates and I whipped up a chocolate cherry pie for him. On that occasion, I learned two things about my sweetheart ~ his favorite candy is Fannie Mae vanilla crèmes. I also learned ~ by sheer chance ~ that he is crazy about anything that contains sour cherries ~ especially cherry pie and cherry strudel. (Bless his sweet heart, he learned that I do not share his love of vanilla cremes, even though he drove into Chicago to purchase a fresh pound just for me – but I will not comment further on that disaster.)
On a visit to Chicago a few months later, I picked cherries with my fiancé off his parent’s tree. Lots of beautiful ripe red pie cherries. That first cherry pie baked with freshly picked cherries? So delicious ~ nothing like the pies of my youth made with canned filling (Morrison’s Cafeteria). Light years better. But you already know that. From my in-law’s tree on Honore Street to the cherry tree we planted in our first garden, to a lake house that came with a mature cherry tree, to a U-pick cherry orchard along the road to Club Fred, and to the cherry trees we planted in our next house, we have never been without a source for fresh Montmorency cherries.
My sister, Cheryl, came to visit the summer of our first cherry season at Club Fred. Until then, I knew of no one who was as crazy for cherry pie as my husband ~ warm cherry pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Breakfast, Lunch, and Supper. Oh yeah! Cheryl made sure that we picked that cherry tree clean. To get to the ones at the top? We stood on the roof of our car and filled our buckets while battling the robins. And then we baked pies. Lots and lots of pies.
On subsequent July visits, Cheryl and I, along with our former sil and the Shrimp Squad, picked cherries. Mama was happy to sit in front of a fan and pit them while watching her soaps ~ even the 100 pounds we picked at Sunrise Farms one year. We canned and froze cherries for the travelers to take home ~ we baked cobblers for breakfast ~ we put up bottles of cherry jam. And we baked cherry pies! Lots and lots of cherry pies.
For over 40 years, in the kitchens of the Sidewalk House and Club Fred, cherry pies have been baked and served ~ recipes tested and re-tested in search of the ultimate recipe. I mean, seriously y’all, how many pies does it take before this baker gets it right? My testers ~ Mr. I Love Cherry Pie and Ms. Sister Who Loves Cherry Pie say I could use more practice ~ lots and lots of practice. The Doodlebug Who Also Loves Cherry Pie might agree. They say they will let me know when I finally have it just right.
Until then? I have worked through more recipes that feature tart cherries. Some of our favorites?
- Cherries Jubilee
- Cherry Muffins
- Cherry Cobbler
- Cherry Clafouti
- Cherry Sauce ~ ice cream, crepes, or cheesecake
- Cherry Ebelskivers
- Pancake Puffs with Cherries
- Cherry Bounce
- Pork Tenderloin with Cherry and Rosemary sauce
- and one of my personal favorites? Goat Cheese filled Pasta Handkerchiefs with a Sour Cherry and Sage Sauce?
Shhhh! Don’t tell. I have a bag of cherries hidden in the freezer. The question is: Do I bake one more pie for The Man? Or serve up something from the above list?
Y’all come! Pick some cherries with us. We’ll bake cherry pies ~ lots and lots of cherry pies. And maybe this year, Sweetheart, just maybe I will bake a long awaited cherry strudel like Tante Marie. It’s the little things we cherish at the Sidewalk House. Hugs, Jackie
PS: Let’s pray that there is no late season frost for us, the Michigan Fruit Belt Farmers, and the robins! SPRING! SPRING! SPRING!