Friday, July 17, 2009


Round 1: It all started a couple of weeks ago when one of the stands at the biweekly Farmer's Market in Volksdorf (above) had organic sweet cherries for crazy cheap, so I bought up two kilos to freeze. I asked Stefan's mother, Thea, if she had a cherry pitter I could borrow, and she said that she had a homemade one, and that all the mechanical ones were basically useless. Well, I was skeptical, but I figure she's the expert, so I took it on. I didn't really have much choice, truth be told, since the cherries had to be processed before they started to go bad, which would have been a huge shame.

It went much more smoothly than I expected, and I pitted all two kilos (4.4 lbs to the Americans) in about a half an hour. I put them straight onto aluminum foil covered trays from our freezer, and filled two layers this way. Here I am at work.

Here you see what a couple of kilos of cherries does to your fingers! And the cherry pitter I borrowed from Thea. Yes, that is a hairpin stuck in a cork. It actually worked quite well, I think. But, this being cherry season, I had to give it back and figure something out for myself for the next round...

So two kilos of cherries yielded about 1.75 kilos pitted. Below you see the bags ready to be put back in the freezer and my little helper.

Just after I finished processing these cherries, Kurt asked Stefan to go to the house of a family friend to pick some cherries from their tree, so Stefan came home with another one and half kilos of sweet cherries. These were somewhat more bland than the variety we got at the farmer's market, but I wasn't about to throw them out! However, I had returned the cherry pitter to Thea, and didn't have a hairpin around. If you can believe it, I used a clam shucker to pit the cherries. Don't ask why I have a clam schucking knife around...I just do, and it worked quite well I must say. So another two and half bags of cherries were added to the freezer. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to get another freezer just for cherries!

Round 2:
Our next-door neighbor has two sour cherry trees along our western property line, both of which conveniently overhang our lawn. The neighbor is a retired gentleman who I think has no interest in his bounty, and he said we were welcome to whatever we could reach. We could reach plenty.

With Eris's help, we picked five kilos (11 lbs), or all that would fit in the pot.

I have been told that these cherries are a variety called Shatten Morellen, which are known for their flavor. They are really too sour for me to eat out of hand, so I made jam. Well, some of it is more preserves than jam as it didn't all set very well, but it tastes good. We have had a very wet year so far, so the fruit was very watery. This variety is so flavorful that it didn't taste watery, but the juices were somewhat diluted. I could feel it on my fingers, which puckered up from the water (which hadn't happened before) and I could see it when I boiled the jam. It took a looong time for the jam to get to the gel point.

I only bought six "real" jam jars that I could seal, and I put some up in reused jars with a disk of vodka-soaked paper in the lid so I could give them away. I think I had a total of ten 300 mL jars (a little over 8 oz). This is really my favorite flavor of jam. I think I'll need to make more to give away!

Not that there is a shortage of cherries or anything. I took the picture below two days ago, well over a week after we harvested the first five kilos. I am thinking of making a little more jam, and maybe canning some in their own juice. Anyone have any pointers on canning cherries?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Today's walk

I went today later than usual--instead of my pre-breakfast wake up walk, I went solo mid-morning while Stefan took Eris to Kinderturnen (a play group at a school gymnasium with tumbling equipment and balls and all sorts of physical play opportunities). It was a glorious day for a walk, sunny and windy. Normally, I am not a big fan of wind, but walking in the woods on a windy, sunny day is something really special. The dappled shade shimmers and moves like the light under water, and the wind rushes and sighs through the treetops while gently cooling the air at ground level. Here are some pictures from my walk, mostly of the tree tunnel.

Stefan called this "The Vortex". It is taken from inside the tree tunnel where there is a washout. I have seen deer crossing here, and I think it is a popular place for the local kids to play in the mud. From this vantage point (and the next couple of pictures), you are looking away from our house towards the fields surrounding the village.

This is a little further up, where the lower walls of the tunnel are full of ferns and greenery. On the left side, behind the trees (out of sight) and even with the top of the earthen wall, is a wheat field. To the right and up is young forest.

You get a feel for how the earth piles up on each side to make a wall. I wonder how long this path has been around.

This is nearly early at the end of the tree tunnel, where the view is fairly unremarkable. This amazing shadow appeared as the sun came free of a cloud. The shadow is cast by one of the very large oaks that dot the path.

This picture is from the other side of the Schuberg, where there is a lovely view overlooking one of the horse farms. From this view I am looking mostly west, towards the lovely town of Ohlstedt Bergstedt, which you can't see because of the trees.