I spent a few fantastic days at Quillisascut Farm in the Eastern Washington town of Rice, which is about 300 miles from my home in Seattle. We made several styles of goat cheese, learned how to build a wood-fired oven - then baked pizzas and naturally-yeasted breads to perfection using that oven. We worked up our appetites pulling weeds in the garden or hiking in the hills, and we ate so many amazing farm-to-table meals that no one wanted to leave. Ever.
I hated to pack up and head home yesterday, but I cheered myself up by making a tiny detour to pick some fresh sweet cherries at my parent's orchard in Rock Island, Washington, on the banks of the Columbia River. One look at dad's cherry trees and I knew my 17 mile detour was the right decision. I was feeling better already.
There were some questions about whether or not the sugar content in the cherries was high enough to pick them, but just as I was pulling up, the field man was leaving and he gave the big thumbs up. Truth be told, I would have picked them anyway. I would gladly eat them a bit underripe and for most preserves, slightly underripe fruit works quite well. (It contains higher amounts of pectin, the natural gelling agent needed for superior results.)
For ideas about how to use cherries in recipes, click here.