We won't tell a lie—February is National Cherry Month (honest). The ruby-red color of cherries is perfect for patriotic celebrations on President's Day and for romantic offerings on Valentine's Day or any special occasion throughout the month.
Choices for cherry celebrations are not limited to cherry pie. Cherries add a festive spirit to salads, side dishes or main courses.
Cherries won the hearts of Americans long ago. European settlers had hardly stepped on the soil of the New World before they began planting cherry trees. Early French colonists from Normandy brought pits that they planted along the Saint Lawrence River and on down into the Great Lakes area.
Peter Dougherty, a Presbyterian missionary, is credited with planting the first cherry orchard in Michigan and, in essence, getting the cherry industry started as a commercial enterprise. Against the advice of an Indian farmer who had grown other fruits in the area, Dougherty planted a cherry orchard in 1852 on the Old Mission Peninsula, which is a narrow strip of land that juts out into Grand Traverse Bay just north of Traverse City, Michigan. The area proved to be ideal for growing cherries because Lake Michigan helps to temper Arctic winds in winter and cool the orchards in summer. Today there are millions of cherry trees in Michigan, and the State leads the nation in the production of tart cherries, harvesting about three-fourths of the U.S. crop. Commercial orchards dot the State along Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to the Elk Rapids area. Large commercial crops of tart cherries also are grown in Utah, Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania.
In celebration of the bountiful cherry harvest, February has been designated National Cherry Month. Special displays and promotions are offered throughout the country by retailers, restaurants, schools and libraries.
As with other fruit ingredients, appropriate handling techniques should be used when formulating products with cherries. It is recommended that cherries be added near the end of processing, if possible, to preserve texture and shape. Texture can be maintained by avoiding excess exposure to oxygen and keeping the pH low. This also helps to safeguard the natural color of cherries, which is supplied by anthocyanins. The color can withstand high-temperature, short-time heating, but avoid prolonged heating at temperatures above 160 degrees F.
Once opened, cherry filling and water-pack cherries should be transferred to plastic containers with tight-fitting lids and stored in the refrigerator up to 10 days.
Frozen cherry products will retain good quality up to one year when held at 0 degrees F. Once thawed, cherries may discolor if not used quickly or kept submerged in syrup or juice. Thawed cherries can be held in the refrigerator three to five days.
Dried cherries should be stored at a constant temperature; avoid storing them near high heat; they can be stored in the refrigerator up to 6 months in the original packaging.
For everyday dinners or special occasions, beef takes on new flavors with mushrooms, onions and cherries.
Trim fat from steak; cut steak into 1-inch cubes. Coat a large, oven-proof Dutch oven or stockpot with non-stick cooking spray; place over medium heat until hot. Add steak; cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until meat is browned. Drain well; set aside.
Re coat pan with cooking spray; place over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped onion; cook 1 minute. Add wine and mushroom soup; mix well. Bring mixture to a boil. Return steak to pan; stir in cherries, mushrooms and pearl onions.
In a small bowl, combine flour and water, blending until smooth with a wire whisk. Gradually stir flour mixture into steak mixture; mix well. Bake, covered, in a preheat 350 degree oven 1-1/2 hours, or until steak is tender and mixture is thickened. Serve over cooked noodles.
Makes 8 servings
Serving size: 3/4 cup
Calories per serving: 528
Total fat per serving: 12 grams
Prepared the night before, breakfast rolls have never been easier.
In a small mixing bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and milk; mix well. Pour mixture into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cherries and pecans evenly over sugar mixture.
On a lightly floured surface, roll bread dough into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle; brush with melted butter. In a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cherries. Roll up rectangle, jelly-roll style, starting from a long side; pinch to seal edges. With a sharp knife, cut roll into 12 slices.
Place slices, cut-side down, on top of mixture in pan. Let rise, covered, in a warm place 30 minutes, or until nearly double. (Or, cover with waxed paper, then with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours. Before baking, let chilled rolls stand, covered, 20 minutes at room temperature.)
Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 375 degrees oven 20 to 25 minutes for unchilled rolls and 25 to 30 minutes for chilled rolls, or until golden brown. If necessary, cover rolls with foil the last 10 minutes to prevent over-browning. Let cool in pan 1 to 2 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm.
Makes 12 rolls
Serving size: 1 roll
Calories per serving: 198
Total fat per serving: 6 grams
Provided by Cherry Marketing Institute, Inc.
This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.
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This page modified January 2007
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