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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

National Cherry Month; Ah Bing

Jell-O Girl in February

There are more than 1,000 varieties of cultivated cherries in the United States but fewer than 10 are produced commercially. Basically, cherries can be divided into two groups; sweet cherries, which are yummy for eating right off the tree, and sour cherries, which are used in canning, cooking and as “pie cherries.” Today, for National Cherry Month, we are going to indulge in the brief history of a sweet cherry many of you are quite familiar with; the Bing Cherry.

According to John Mariani in The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, the history of the sweet cherry began at the crossroads of ancient civilizations in the fertile area between the Black and Caspian Seas in Asia Minor.

The cherry originated in Asia but was widely dispersed throughout Europe and North America in prehistoric times. European colonists found wild cherries in America and cultivated them, also crossbreeding them with European varieties.
Cherry Bounce | 1908

As you can see from the above recipe as found in The Boston Cooking School Magazine the subscriber from New Orleans is requesting a Cherry Bounce recipe from the magazine which is based in Massachusetts. I find this request quite interesting not to mention the widespread interest of cherries in 1908! I have an earlier recipe for Cherry Bounce in Marion Harland’s Common Sense in the Household ©1871 which has almost the exact recipe minus the water and only a gallon of “your best whiskey.” I should note, however, that Mrs. Harland’s recipe for Cherry Bounce calls for “4lbs. of sour and the same of sweet.” A modern recipe for Cherry Bounce can be found at Epicurious with this tidbit of info:

Among the few recipes known to have been used by the Washington family is this one for cherry bounce, a brandy-based drink popular in the eighteenth century. It seems to have been such a favorite of General Washington's that he packed a "Canteen" of it, along with Madeira and port, for a trip west across the Allegheny Mountains in September 1784.

This fruity, spiced cordial requires a bit of work and time, but the result is well worth the effort. After pitting, halving, and mashing the cherries, be prepared to set away the sweetened brandied juice for twenty-four hours and then again for about two weeks after infusing it with spices. Enjoy small glasses of cherry bounce at room temperature, and keep the remainder on hand in the refrigerator.

The fact that George Washington packed a “Canteen” of Cherry Bounce for a trip West in 1784, reiterates other articles I found claiming that wild cherries were indigenous in the colonies. Apparently, cherries were also “an important” crop in Pennsylvania at one time. As for Marion Harland and her Cherry Bounce, most likely the “sour” cherries she includes in her recipe were of the Red Kentish variety as they were not only the cherries Robert Herrick immortalized in one of his poems, it was the Red Kentish early settlers cultivated in 1629 in places such as Massachusetts.


Cherry ripe, ripe, ripe, I cry,
Full and fair ones; come and buy!
If so be you ask me where
They do grow, I answer, there,
Where my Julia’s lips do smile;
There’s the land, or cherry-isle.
Whose plantations fully show
All the year where cherries grow.

We all know the legend of Johnny Appleseed and his trek across American sowing and planting apple trees as he travelled. For cherries, the journey West was led by wagon.

In 1847, a man by the name of Henderson Luelling (sometimes spelled Lewelling) took an assortment of seven hundred fruit plants to Oregon. In that wagon were small cherry trees. Legend has it that, while other pioneers were attacked by tribes along the trail, the Luellings passed safely because their wagon was full of fruit trees.

Henderson Luelling (1810-1879) was a pioneering nurseryman who introduced varietal fruit to the Willamette Valley near Salem, Oregon and later to California. In 1847, Luelling, his wife, and eight children came west on the Oregon Trail, bringing a wagon loaded with an assortment of 50 or 60 varieties of apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, quince, black walnuts, hickory nuts, gooseberries, currants, and grapes. All told, the wagon had about 700 young plants, which he loaded into two long, narrow boxes in his wagon that were filled with charcoal, manure, and soil. He assiduously cared for them every day during the long journey, prompting his daughter to exclaim that he cared more about the trees than his family.

The first thing that came to mind while reading the safe passage legend was, how in the world did those fruit plants survive! I have a hard enough time taking care of a garden right in my back yard with all the comforts of gardening right at my finger tips. Imagine taking care of those plants, the family and worrying about what or who could be hidden in the landscape? Henderson Luelling’s story is one of great interest but not one we can “talk” about now. Suffice to say, he is remembered in history as the Father of the Pacific Fruit Industry.

Seth Lewelling, brother of Henderson, was yet another pioneer nurseryman. In the fall of 1850, Seth joined his brother Henderson at his nursery in Oregon bringing with him a considerable amount of fruit seed. For the next few years, their nursery operations were on such a large scale, Salem Oregon and its surrounding areas became know as Cherry City.

Seth Lewelling is best remembered for his work in developing new fruit varieties. Among these, two black cherries stand out. In 1860, the original Black Republican tree was grown from a seed of a Black Eagle cherry and, in 1875, a Black Republican planting produced a promising seedling that Lewelling named "Bing" after his faithful Chinese helper, Ah Bing. The Bing cherry would be Seth Lewelling's crowning achievement.

When Bing cherries were exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, people at first thought, because of their size, they were crabapples. According to reports, the large Bings averaged 35 cherries to the pound and sold in the East for three cents a cherry. (Salem-Cherry City)
original cherry tree pictured in 1904 Friends in Fruit
Black Republican Cherry Tree | 1904
The Black Republican was named to commemorate the abolitionist movement.

There seems to be a bit of confusion as to whether the Bing Cherry was named in honor of Mr. Bing because he was a loyal and hardworking employee or for other reasons. An article published in the May 1973 Bulletin of the Chinese Historical Society of America tells of the life of this Chinese horticulturist.

Ah Bing Story

Ready for some recipes??? Personally, my favorite way to enjoy sweet, plump Bing cherries is fresh right out of the bowl. For me, the season is waaaaaay to short which doesn’t lend itself to actually cooking with them. Tart cherries also have a short fresh season but at least they are readily available canned or frozen. (I do buy frozen Bings for my smoothies:) First up, Pork Chops with Cherry Apple Reduction Sauce harvested from Cooking In Style the Costco Way.

Pork Chops with Cherry Apple Reduction Sauce

I found this recipe for Cherry Twists El Charro in Mable Hoffman’s Deep-Fry Cookery. Yes, it does call for canned tart cherries but, I just couldn’t resist!

Cherry Twists El CharroCherry Twists El Charro

Next up, California Apricot-Cherry Cornmeal Cobbler as found in America’s Favorite Brand Name Old Fashioned Favorites ©1998.

California Apricot Cherry Cornmeal CobblerCalifornia Apricot Cherry Cornmeal Cobbler

If after reading all this cherry talk, you’re craving cherry recipes, may I suggest you hop over to Pattie’s Olla-Podrida where she celebrated National Cherry Month in a delicious way!

Celebrate National Cherry Month!

Did you see the Jell-O girl booklet at the top of this post? It’s just a little reminder that Jell-O week is celebrated the second week of February. Although, I would prefer Gloria’s Mason Jar Cherry Pies right at the moment, I’m sure Marion wouldn’t mind one bit if I whipped up this Apple Snow! (she’s been on quite the Jell-O kick lately:)

Jell-O Apple Snow Recipe

I want to take a moment to thank you all for your sweet comments about the February calendar. I’m so glad you all enjoy it! Just in case you missed it, or if you just want to down load it to keep it handy, the link is in the sidebar. As you might of guessed, I also have a National Cherry Month Pinterest board:)

Have a wonderful week everyone, I’ll be back next Wednesday to celebrate Southern Living Magazine’s golden anniversary. (I have tons of Southern Living Annuals:)

Resources
1. The Skinny on Cherry Nutrition
2. Famous People You Never Heard Of
3. Henderson Lewelling House

47 comments:

  1. i LOVE cherries, but even when they're in season, they're so expensive! i need my own personal cherry tree(s). :)

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    1. GREAT idea Grace! There are so many varieties that are perfect for home gardens! Good luck and do share when you get cherries:)

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  2. I could never get into real cherries, but I like a lot of things that are just cherry flavored. It's funny because I feel the exact opposite way about bananas. (Love real ones but can't stand banana flavoring.)

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    1. Lol, Poppy. I feel the same way about blueberries. Not crazy about them fresh out of the bowl but LOVE them in all things cooked! Go figure! I'm not to keen on banana flavoring either:)

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  3. Hi Louise,
    Fab-u-lous post! I love all of the recipes..I am getting hungry as I read your very informative post on cherries. I don't know anyone who doesn't love cherries. My dad drinks cherry juice for his Gout and that really works. Love the photo of the original cherry tree in 1904..terrific! Never knew a lot of this info...Thanks for sharing...hope that all is well and say hello to Marion...BTW: glad to see you back posting again..missed you dear friend..
    Hugs Dottie :)

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    1. I meant to mention the cherry juice gout "remedy" Dottie, thanks for that:) I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. I sure do wish it were Cherry season!

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  4. Hi, Louise! I learn so much from your theme inspired posts! Love all the info on cherries!

    We have such a short cherry season here, too. I will save these recipes to try in the summer. (Well, maybe not the bounce. We’ll stick to red wine for our hearts. But it does sound good!)

    We have a chokecherry in our yard. The fruit is tiny and mostly pit, but we enjoy sitting in the kitchen and watching the birds come to feast on the cherries.

    Hi to Marion and happy week to you both!

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post, Margaret. It was fun to research:) I did see quite a few recipes using chokecherries. I guess they aren't just for the birds!!!

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  5. That cherry bounce sounds pretty good! As do the other recipes. Fun stuff -- loads of info I didn't know. Thanks!

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    1. Doesn't that Cherry Bounce sound promising, John. It's on my "to drink" list, lol...Thanks for popping by...

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  6. Hi Louise, what a great post, love the history that you shared today and the recipes. Cherries are one of my favorite stone fruits, might have to make me some cherry bounce. Take care, Cheri P.S. would love the whole cauliflower recipe:)

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    1. Hi Cheri:)
      Cherries sure are yummy, Cheri...Like little nibbles of candy:) The Cauliflower recipe is on the way, enjoy!

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  7. Interesting Ah Bing story, Louise! Love the chocolate-coated cherries, my dear! xoxo

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    1. I'm hoping to get Chocolate Covered Cherries in time for Valentine's Day, Shirley. Although, I really should make some. Don't worry, I'll share:)

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  8. I am with you on eating Bing cherries straight out of the bowl, and not prepared in some way. Actually, I don't like cherry pie, cobbler or other baked treats, which I think makes me weird. That's OK, I like being weird ;-)

    Your cherry pictures are really pretty, and make me want to make desserts that I wouldn't even like, just to have the prettiness around! And I can totally figure out some way to celebrate Jello Week next week! Happy weekending, Louise; I think we'll be spared the next storm!

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    1. I don't think it's weird Margie. It took me most of my life to like blueberries in baked treats. I still don't like them "as is."

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  9. Dear Louise, I love cherries!! They are good for arthritis too. I love the crepe recipe as well as a good old fashioned cherry pie.
    I hope that you and Marion are well and nice and cozy and warm. Take care. xoxo Catherine

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    1. Marion "swears" by cherries for gout and arthritis, Catherine. We are indeed warm and cozy:) Thanks for visiting...

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  10. I love cherries and American cherries are especially divine. You're lucky to have so many varieties to choose from!

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    1. Cherries are so yummy aren't they Kari. They taste like candy!!!

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  11. Can you believe that my hubby will only eat cherries in Kool Aid? Crazy!!! Like you, I love eating them out of a bowl---sooooo good!!!

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    1. Cherries in Kool Aid??? Now, I've heard it all, Liz. lol...

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  12. Love this post, Louise. As always, you amaze me with the interesting tidbits you uncover. Never knew about Washington and his cherry bounce drink, and also had not heard about Luelling and his transporting fruit trees to the west. Fascinating. All that, and recipes, too! I printed out two of them and hope to try them soon. I just discovered the frozen cherries at the grocery store and bought some recently for smoothies. Now I have to try them with pork chops. Thank you, thank you, Louise. LOVE your amazing place on the web :)

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    1. You are too kind Lynn:) Thank you so much for your sweet words. I'm so happy you enjoyed your visit!

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  13. I can't wait till cherry season arrives! I eat them by the fistful! I think I commented before, but couldn't remember if you needed to approve it, so back again to make sure I did! Happy weekend!!!

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  14. Oh Louise, You always have the most interesting posts. I do love cherries but never knew all the facts you posted. Love all that history. I would love to make some crepes...with some beautiful cherries on top! Or maybe a cherry pie! Ah the possibilities!! So glad to see you posting more regularly. Have a good week and thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Hi Kathy:)
      Hope all is well in your little corner of the world. So glad you enjoyed this post. If only it were cherry season, I sure would love to dig in! Ah the possibilities!

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  15. I can never use cherries in anything because I sneak into the bag so many times that by the time I am ready to make something with them, they are mostly gone!

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    1. Lol, I do the same thing, Pam. Out of the bag or out of the bowl. They are just like candy!!!

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  16. I love cherries...My favorite are dark sweet cherries but I know I can use a lot of these recipes! Thanks and happy binging!

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    1. I love all cherries, Debra! I'll be happily binging as soon as cherry season arrives!

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  17. ah! Louise! Love your posts! You always pick the perfect topic and prepare the reading so well! I'm dying to try these crepes... they look scrumptious!

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    1. Thank you Marcela. You're so sweet:) I hope you do try the crepes!

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  18. National cherry month - now that's a celebration I wholeheartedly support.

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  19. Hi Louise,

    My family and I love love love cherries!!! When I learned from you that Feb is a cherry month, I was feeling surprised because I'm sure that cherry is not in season in US at this moment. For us, our Aus cherry season is recently gone... And curiously asked myself why are cherry and Feb related?

    Zoe

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    1. You are so right, Zoe. It is not Cherry season...yet! I am waiting patiently for it to arrive:)

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  20. Ohhh Louise amo las cerezas aún es temporada aquí ,las recetas son maravillosas no se cual elegir yo voy por un crepé lástima que estamos muy lejos,gracias por el post,abrazos

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    1. Es una lástima que tan lejos Rosita. Me gustaría compartir un plato de cerezas con ustedes :)

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  21. I love cherries, didn't know it was their month in February!

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    1. Hi Caroline,
      Thank you so much for dropping by:) It seems cherries are everyone's favorite. I sure wish they were in season!

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  22. We put in a cherry tree last summer and I just bought a cherry stone remover on sale. You've come in with the cherry recipes so now I just need the tree to grow up!

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    1. I can't wait for your cherry trees to grow either, Inger! Oh the recipes you will be sharing!!!

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  23. Dear Louise,

    Cherries are good for arthritis as well, so I try to keep them on hand both in jars, cans and when the season is here fresh.
    I love them anyway so it is enjoyable for me to incorporate them is so many dishes.
    Keep warm and my love, xoxo Catherine

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    1. Marion "swears" by cherries for arthritis Catherine. We have cherry juice on hand at all times and when they aren't in season, there are frozen cherries in the freezer!

      Thank you so much for visiting, Catherine...Stay warm:)

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  24. Hi there to all, the contents present at this web page are truly amazing for people experience,
    well, keep up the good work fellows.

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise

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