February is National Cherry Month

Celebrate with Cherries In February


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.


Storage and Handling Tips

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.


Quick Ideas Using Cherries

  • Combine equal parts chocolate pudding and cherry pie filling for a quick dessert.
  • A good cake for potluck meals or for school treats: Add one can (21 ounces) cherry filling and topping and 2 eggs to your favorite chocolate cake mix. Mix well. Pour into a greased 15 x l0 x l-inch baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 25 to 30 minutes.
  • For a quick barbecue sauce, add ginger and teriyaki sauce to cherry pie filling. Blend until smooth. Brush on chicken, turkey or sirloin steaks as they are grilling.
  • Add well-drained, tart cherries to cornbread along with a little cheese.
  • Serve cherry filling and topping over gingerbread.
  • Add slivered almonds to cherry filling before making cherry pie.
  • Cherry filling and topping is great over ice cream.
  • Combine cherry pie filling and canned sweet potatoes; bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  • Add cinnamon, cloves and allspice to cherry pie filling; use as a filling for omelets.
  • Season acorn squash halves with a little butter and brown sugar, then add cherry pie filling. Bake in a 350-degree oven 55 to 60 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  • Add well-drained, chopped tart cherries to your favorite quick bread recipe.
  • Warm cherry pie filling and serve over pancakes or waffles.
  • Add toasted almonds to cherry pie filling along with a little almond extract; use as a filling for crepes.
  • For a quick version of Black Forest Cake: Prepare your favorite chocolate cake and bake in two layers. After the cake cools, put cherry pie filling in the middle and top of cake. Frost sides with whipped cream.
  • Add canned tart cherries to your favorite fruit salad.

Beef Burgundy

Beef Burgundy

For everyday dinners or special occasions, beef takes on new flavors with mushrooms, onions and cherries.

  • 2-1/2 pounds boneless beef round steak
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups Burgundy or other dry red wine
  • 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1-1/2 cups dried tart cherries
  • 2 jars (4-1/2 ounces each) button mushrooms, drained
  • 1 cup pearl onions (fresh, frozen or canned)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package (12 ounces) medium egg noodles, cooked and well drained

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


Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Prepared the night before, breakfast rolls have never been easier.

  • 2/3 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries, divided
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 loaf ( 14 to 16 ounces) frozen white bread dough, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

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.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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