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I love the fact that in Australia the Christmas season and cherry season coincide. We may not have sleighbells in the snow, we may need our eggnog iced, or drunk VERY late at night, we may view the traditional hot Christmas lunch with horror, I may be getting more and more jealous of some of the cooking blogs I read, but damnit, cherries are here and yummy and a deep red and like the scent of sunscreen and pine needles will always say "Christmas" to me.

On Friday [profile] mc_shamo and I drove to Castlemaine and it's surrounds in search of cherries. Unfortunately the inclement weather of late has meant that although it's cherry season the glut usually experienced around Christmas won't happen. Quite a few of the places I'd planned that we'd visit were closed. However, the silver lining for me of all this is that at Peelers Family Orchard in Harcourt they were willing to sell me a box of water-damaged cherries for $18. This box would have held about 8 kilos of cherries (for overseas readers and those who don't buy cherries, at the moment in shops cherries are ranging from $10 to $17 a kilo) I was stoked. We bought the box plus a kilo of eating cherries (only half a kilo made it back to Kensington, and we may have been a little sticky and had red stained lips by the time we got home) and then headed to the Maldon Cherry Farm where they were also experienceing difficulty with the rain but had a few varieties for sale. We bought a bag of the firmer, less sweet cherries and a bag of sweeter cherries (which I actually think had less flavour, kinda wish we'd just bought two bags of the firm ones) and after a detour into Maldon itself for scones, cake and coffee and to pick up a cherry stoner we called it a day.

At home we moved the coffee table out of the lounge, then [profile] mc_shamo turned on the television and dvd player while I got an old towel from upstairs. We put the box of cherries on the towel and got out two large mixing bowls. I started de-stalking the cherries, keeping my eye out for ones too bruised to use or mouldy (I was actually surprised how few there were I had to chuck) and Seamus de-stoned them, putting the stones and stalks in one bowl and the cherries in another. We continued like this while having a West Wing marathon until about 3am, with me getting up periodically whenever there were enough cherries and making jam, in the end we had 17 jars of the stuff. I've earmarked a jar for each of our relatives to whom we usually give presents, which takes us down to 7 jars, which should see us through to the next cherry season.) I also had a brainwave when I realised just how MANY cherries we had and spread about 3 kilos of them out in our food dehydrator. It took over 24 hours but we've ended up with about 500gms of dried cherries, which are like cherry-flavoured sultanas.

Yesterday, with West Wing still rolling (as I said on Facebook, I think I had dreams about the defecit last night) I de-stoned the firm cherries we'd not eaten and put them on a foil covered baking tray (and there was a little bit of "one for me, one for the tray, two for me, one for the tray" going on I admit) which I put in the frzer. After two hours they were frozen solid, I picked them off and put in a freezer-safe container. Apparently they keep quite well like this and can be used to make cherry sorbet or cherry sauce in winter. I then de-stoned the sweeter but less firm cherries and put them in a large jar with some sugar, over which I poured brandy. This will make both cherry brandy and liquere cherries, ready in about 3 months, perfect in about 6.

There is now about half a kilo of cherries in the fridge for eating and that's it! The rest have been disposed of in what I hope are yummy, yummy ways.

And after all that, I forgot to bring any fresh cherries to work with me. You'd think I'd be cherried out, but no. So I guess I'll have my orange and just think about cherries until I get home.
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April 2011

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