Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Farm Bill

House to Consider FY08 Agriculture Appropriations Bill - a headline emailed to me from congress.org -

This week the House of Representatives is set to debate H.R. 3161, the 2008 agriculture appropriations bill. Issues up for debate include food stamps, crop insurance, and commodities. The House may also consider country-of-origin labeling, as well as an amendment that would prohibit giving subsidies to farmers whose income exceeds $250,000.Let Congress know what you think about the farm bill.
Separated by 182 years, John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, and I share a birthday. He was born in 1774. I just realized this today.

I finished a quick read through Slow Food - A case for taste by Carlo Petrini. (Ha! I even have to read fast!) As I understand it, his vision of the Slow Food movement is
-not to protest fast food but to teach how slow food is better
to educate consumers, beginning with children
-to preserve biodiversity and unique regional foods and flavors
-to provide economic support for local, small food producers

I started thinking about regional flavors in the North Central Ohio region. Among the Native Americans who lived here were the Iriquois, the Chippewa (or Ojibway), Wyandot, Miami, Delaware, Seneca, Ottawa, Hurons. I haven't seen much written about their cuisine, but imagine that wild game played a large part in it. But even they weren't native to this area, they moved west from New York about 200 years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. The Adena and Hopewell (mound-building) Indians lived here long before, their primary foods were maize, squash, and beans.

Moving forward in history, this region was settled during the expansion into the Northwest Territories, in the early through mid-1800's, primarily by German farmers - my own family history shows a number of names like Klopfenstein, Ritter, Klahn, Weber, Horning, Kocheiser, and so on.
So what is more German than apples and pork? But then, pondering even more, I realized that this area was once the haunt of Johnny Appleseed - in fact, our football conference here is the Johnny Appleseed conference, and we have the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center just a few miles away. So I googled Johnny Appleseed and came up with his birth date - couldn't believe it was the same as mine!

And just to complete the circle, I find that Michael Pollan's book "The Botany of Desire" has a Johnny Appleseed reference, and Michael Pollan is on the advisory board of the Slow Food USA organization.

I've seen signs like these all over the place ever since I was a little girl -- I remember especially the DeKalb seed corn signs that a neighbor put up, that advertised the hybrid cross he was using. My farmer dad never put up these signs, so I am mystified - Is this like an advertisement for the variety of seed? Does the farmer get paid for advertising? Or is it just a point of pride, if his corn grows well, to let the neighbors know what he planted? Or, is it a warning, in case the corn pollen might cross-polinate with another variety?

I've seen these signs for so long and so often that I haven't even been reading them -- UNTIL TODAY. Croplan GENETICS. Midwest Seed GENETICS. Does this mean these are GMO varieties?

So, the question still stands -- Are the farmers paid to put these signs up? Or are they a warning? or are they bragging? I will have to remember to ask my cousin the next time I see him.

Monday, July 30, 2007

One more seasonal recipe - read the whole post for my healthier modifications:

Zucchini orange squares

1 1/2 c. unsifted flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. grated, drained zucchini
1/2 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 T. vegetable oil
2 egg whites, beaten

Mix dry ingredients and stir in zucchini. Add juice and oil to beaten egg whites and fold this into dry ingredients. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. When partially cool, drizzle with icing made of powered sugar, butter and orange juice, very thin.

OK, I can't resist the challenge. I am going to change this recipe to make it healthier. According to Cooks.com, here are the rules for substituting honey for sugar:

1. Use equal amounts of honey for sugar up to one cup. Over one cup, replace each cup of sugar with 2/3 to 3/4 cup over honey depending upon the sweetness desired.
2. Lower the baking temperature 25 degrees and watch your time carefully since products with honey brown faster.
3. In recipes using more than one cup honey for sugar, it may be necessary to reduce liquids by 1/4 cup per cup of honey.
4. In baked goods, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey if baking soda is not already included in the recipe. This will reduce the acidity of the honey, as well as increase the volume of your product.

and, from an article in Natural Health, here is some information about substituting whole wheat flour for white flour:

"Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from a soft, or low-protein, variety of wheat that doesn't form much gluten (strong, elastic strands of protein) when it's mixed. It's best for cakes, cookies, pies, and quick breads, where lightness and tenderness are more desirable than strength and elasticity. Regular whole-wheat flour is milled from hard, or high-protein, wheat and is best suited for yeast breads, where it contributes a hearty texture and robust flavor.Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from a soft, or low-protein, variety of wheat that doesn't form much gluten (strong, elastic strands of protein) when it's mixed. It's best for cakes, cookies, pies, and quick breads, where lightness and tenderness are more desirable than strength and elasticity. Regular whole-wheat flour is milled from hard, or high-protein, wheat and is best suited for yeast breads, where it contributes a hearty texture and robust flavor."

Better-For-You Zucchini orange squares (my adaptation)

3/4 c. unsifted white flour
3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. honey
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. grated, drained zucchini
1/3 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 t. orange extract (optional)
3 T. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten (unless you have a use for two egg yolks!)

Mix dry ingredients and stir in zucchini. Add juice and oil to beaten egg and fold this into dry ingredients. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch greased and floured pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. When partially cool, drizzle with icing made of powered sugar, butter and orange juice, very thin.
Make this now, and preserve it for Thanksgiving.

Green Tomato Mincemeat

6 c. green tomatoes (should be in your garden now)
6 c. apples (The original recipe called for Granny Smith, but Lodi is an excellent substitute and is in season right now.)
2 c. dried cherries (from Traverse City, order online from http://www.mi-cherries.com/order.htm
1 c. golden raisins )
½ c. apple cider vinegar
1 t. lemon zest
1 t. orange zest
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 ½ t. salt
1 t. ground cloves
4 T. butter
3 c. sugar

Core and section green tomatoes and apples. Chop in food processor.
Add all other ingredients; bring to boil; cook over low heat for 1 ½-2 hours.
Place in four pint or two quart canning jars. Hot water process in canner for 25 minutes.
When ready to use in pie, place in prepared pie crust, if desired add ½ cup toasted walnuts and/or ¼ cup brandy. Top with second crust.
Bake in 400° oven until brown.
(Note: Recipe for canned mincemeat can be halved or doubled. It doesn't have to be canned even especially if you're making a smaller amount. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.)
Just ran into an article about the Blue Tractor - it seems they are devotees of the slow food movement. No wonder the food is so good!

Today I went out and got the yellow squash. Found a few monster zucchinis - I swear they weren't there yesterday! Next, for the cucumbers, which I have been ignoring. Tonight I sliced the ones already in my kitchen sink and put them in brine with some vinegar. Tomorrow I will put them in jars and process them.

I went to visit my grandma in the hospital today. She is 96, and is going through a bout of pneumonia. Up until about 10 years ago she was the best gardener in town, and in the country, too. People still talk about her rose garden, but I remember best the way she shared her produce with all the older people in her neighborhood. She had a huge flower garden in town, and her vegetable garden was about an acre in the country (at our house). We helped plant the sweet corn in those LONG, LONG rows. Some of my most pleasant childhood memories are sitting on the back porch at twilight (no air conditioning then!) shelling lima beans from the garden with my mother and my grandmother, watching the fireflies and listening to the corn grow. I still remember the day she and my mother discovered zucchini. The only way they knew how to fix it, at first, was fried in batter or baked in zucchini bread. I was telling her about my zucchini problem and she suggested a food bank. I don't know if they will want fresh zucchini, can they distribute them that fast? And is everyone else in town trying to get rid of them too? I will call the church office tomorrow.

DH says the neighbor is harvesting green beans, cabbages, and peas right now. I did not plant any of these this year. I was hoping that if I skipped a year the bean bugs will go away (wishful thinking).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Here are some of the QualiT-23 tomatoes. They are a later tomato, but seem to be extremely uniform, and the pests don't seem to like them. I need to check with the seed company (Territorial) just to make sure they're not genetically engineered!

Here is a wider view of my garden. The Hairy Galinsoga is still a pest, thanks to the Propex blanket it is staying at the edges of my garden mostly instead of inside it. And the lawn probably needs mowed. But you can see the difference between this view and a few weeks ago. How productive the soil is here in Richland County!

The blackberry plants I transplanted from my dad's farm last year, thinking they were raspberries, have a few fruits on them. Should I tear them out and plant Heritage? Probably.

This is yesterday's zucchini picking. I can't use this many in a month.

Here I am, on the deck of the winery in Chateau Grand Traverse, you see the vineyard behind me and further back is the bay. The neat thing about the Old Mission Peninsula is that you can look either direction and see water, the peninsula is not very wide. Oh, I wish I was still on vacation! I

I took some pictures in my garden yesterday. The zucchini is going great guns. I have been finding a lot of new zucchini recipes but I fear I am going to still have to put some on the compost pile, or do drive-by's (leaving shopping bags on neighbors' doorknobs after dark, or visiting the local Wal-Mart to find cars that have foolishly been left unlocked, putting them on the back seat!)

The tomatoes are doing well, I saved seed of Bloody Butcher tomatoes last year but feared they would cross with the other varieties of tomatoes since they were not separated in the garden. I was right - I am seeing some tall plants, with darker green tomatoes, a few on each stem, and some short plants with huge clusters of brighter-white tomatoes. Here's a photo of the shorter plants in front, with some of the taller plants behind. The problem is I have no idea which of the 5 or 6 varieties I planted last year these plants crossed with. I suspect possibly one of the two Russian varieties, Silvery Fir Tree. The plant somewhat resembles those plants. I swore I would never plant those again in my garden due to the blight. They are living up to their "early" billing, though. I've picked three already and here's another one, just about ready.

I evidently had a moment of forgetfulness this spring. Did I forget the definition of "prolific"??? These yellow squash have been more than prolific. I can't keep up with them. I used one that got too big and hard to mark a low spot in the yard - the bright yellow is the same color they use for caution signs on the highway.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oberlin Fresh Stop

Oberlin is about 50 miles from here -- not exactly local, but not too far away.

Local Difference. Buying local makes a LOT of difference. While we were staying at the Chateau Grand Traverse, I picked up a flyer from the Michigan Land Use Institute.

Their web site is here.
Taste the Local Difference is part of the Michigan Land Use Institute's Entrepreneurial Agriculture Project , which works to grow jobs, save farmland, and build healthier communities with food that's thousands of miles fresher.

It would be nice to have something like this here.

While on vacation a few weeks ago, we visited a restaurant in Traverse City call "the Blue Tractor Cookshop". (this is their back door) It was WONDERFUL! The food was sublimely prepared, fresh, and seemed to be local. Sure enough I just checked their web site and found this:

" The name is also a salute to today's working men and women of Northern Michigan who carry on this tradition. The Blue Tractor represents the often relied upon equipment that makes it possible for our farmers to provide us with the freshest local product. At Blue Tractor, we are committed to working with local producers and to putting only the finest food on our tables. Enjoy!"

Thumbs up to the Blue Tractor!
Is the 2007 Farm Bill a cushion for the wealthy?

That is the question asked by Kevin Diaz of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It cuts back the limit of GROSS income a farmer can make from upwards of $2 million to just $1 million. It seems President Bush is pushing to make that only $200,000. Remember that is GROSS income. Farmers have big expenses, so they may only end up with less than 10 percent of their gross income, as real personal income.

You can find the article here . You may have to register to read the article.

I have no pollination problems here at home, this is the zucchini I picked today. I have more in the sink, from yesterday, and more in the refrigerator, from a few days ago. I haven't even started picking the yellow squash and the cucumbers yet.

Vanishing Bees - Voice of America

Another view of CCD. I saw my first honeybee here in Ohio this year just two days ago, in a patch of white clover in our yard. This is very unusual. I have noticed a much higher number of bumblebees (which seem to be smaller than the ones I saw as a child, for some reason) and a darker bee about the size of a honeybee, but with no yellow markings, in my garden, pollinating the zucchini.

Honey Bee colony collapse disorder

I have not spoken with our beekeeper at the farm this year to find out if he has been affected by this puzzling disease.

Genetically Modified GM POISON FOOD.

OK, I've been cruising YouTube, because of an email I received from the left-wing "The Nation" magazine. The email mentioned Molly Schwartz and Donna Schaper, and I pointed and clicked to eventually wind up here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Probably old news to some of you, but I just found this movie posted on YouTube
- it has 7 parts and you may have to search for the additional parts, but EVERYONE WHO EATS FOOD needs to watch this movie. Search for "future of food".

What's the possibility that genetically modified food genes will cross over into non-GMO crops? The end of this movie is chilling - the latest development is a GMO that produces only sterile crops -- Think seedless watermelons?? This is called "terminator" technology.

What if the TERMINATOR technology spreads? What if heirloom vegetables suddenly stop producing seeds? hmmmm.

You need to watch this video by Molly Schwartz.
My grandsons were over tonight - 4 years old and 2 years old. The four-year-old was getting into some trouble (his momma and I and her sister were chatting, and he got bored) so I thought I would take him into the garden and show him a fresh zucchini and some yellow squash. Well, he said they were "ouchy" (they had some spines) and he went off to pick some tomatoes... Mine are still green, so I told him "NO, Aiden, we wait until they turn red.... He thought that was so funny he picked it and threw it like a baseball, up in the air.... And my hysterical reaction "No, No, don't throw it" he thought was extremely amusing, so he picked some more, and tossed them, and ran around the trees -- seven in all before I chased him down and got them away from him....Anyone have a good recipe for green fried tomatoes?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Slow food. Slow living.

Looked at the Wikipedia article on slow food. Didn't want to join the slow food foundation, as they would like a contribution. Found a link to the slow movement. Here are some suggestions for "the way of slow"

The Slow movement advises some ways of slowing down:

  • Get a Slow hobby, a leisurely pursuit like reading, writing, knitting, yoga, painting or gardening.
  • Spread out your chores; do one load each day instead of all your laundry at once, or dust one day and vacuum the next.
  • Stop watching the clock; on weekends try waking up to your body's natural rhythms rather than an alarm, and leave your watch at home
  • Shop at a farmers' market
  • Prepare a sit-down meal and savour it without watching TV, or reading.
  • Enjoy the conversation if you're dining with others, or peaceful solitude if eating alone.
  • On vacation slow down; don't try to cram every sight into your must-see list. Visit "slow cities" with local restaurants where you can eat slow
  • Prune your to-do list; make time for the people and activities that you enjoy

This sounds like a good list for me!

Cooking well, living well. While on vacation I picked up Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (Julie Powell) at the library. Julie decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, her blog is http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/. In a year's time she not only grew as a cook, she also grew as a person, through the experience.

The day I finished the book we went to see Ratatouille, Disney's animated film about a rat who wants to be a chef. Oh, I understood that restaurant critic. The minute he tasted the ratatouille, he was instantly transported back to his childhood and his nana cooking for him.... That happens to me everytime I taste elderberry pie. I remember my grandmother slaving endlessing overy those tiny berries just to give us a special taste of something that we would remember.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to me to have absolutely fresh food, in season. I think this is a huge quality of life issue for me. I love going out to the garden and picking zucchini, or cucumbers, a fresh tomato, and slicing them immediately into the meal I am preparing.

I went to the library today to turn in a book I found under my car seat.
While I was there, I looked for "My Life in France" by Julia Child. I found it, and sat entranced for an hour or so. I didn't read all of it, but the photographs were charming. I did read the conclusion: "I learned why good french food is an art, and why it makes such sublime eating: nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn't use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture - a gummy beef Wellington, say. But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience."

Oh, Julia... AMEN!!! I have been learning this lesson for the last few years. And it doesn't only apply to cooking. It applies to everything in life. When I started gardening, I tilled one day and stuck the purchased plants in the ground the next. Not surprisingly, I had a big mess of weeds. Now I take care of the soil first, feeding it in the fall and spring with compost, tilling it in several times, then mulching the whole garden.

When I first started knitting, I wanted only to get to the END of the project - get it finished. If I made a mistake or dropped a stitch, I figured out a way to make it up without going back and correcting the problem. Again, not surprisingly, my finished garments showed my haste. Now I rip out stitches. Half the joy of the work is in doing it correctly.

Household repair projects done with duct tape almost never last.

I have finally learned, and will probably still be learning, that in order to have acceptable results, you must plan the project, use the best available materials, use the right tools, and take enough time in execution to do the job properly.

While at the library, I also picked up McGee's "On Food and Cooking - the science and lore of the kitchen" which at first glance appears to be a chemical process engineer's view of cooking! I spent an hour looking through the chapters on bread, pie crusts, and chocolate.

Also "Conscious Cuisine- A new Style of cooking from the Kitchens of Chef Cary Neff". In the introduction, he gives a brief resume, covering his successes as an assistant chef and a saucier, creating rich and flavorful sauces and stocks, but then goes on to say "I had forgotten that I was taught to cook consciously with the seasons, to embrace the region in which I lived and worked, and to select only the finest ingredients in preparing foods."

It is rather late so I will save the rest of this book for another day. But Cary seems to understand me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I filled out my fair entry form today and faxed it in. Had a good chuckle, looking at the commercially-produced apple varieties from MSU, and then comparing it to the list from our local county fair in Ohio. The varieties here are:

1. Melrose
2. Ruby
3. Red Delicious (ours are Stark's Crimson)
4. Golden Delicious
5. Franklin
6. Maiden Blush
7. Grimes Golden
8. Northern Spy
9. Rome Beauty
10. Melba
11. Banana
12. Jonathan
13. Stayman
14. Ida Red
15. Strawberry
16. Lodi
17. Courtland
18. Crab Apple
19. Any other variety

I've highlighted the varieties on this list that we have at our orchard in green. These are all old varieties. I wonder if our fair varieties need updating? I will search the OSU extension web site for apples to see what they say.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Apple maturity in Grand Rapids area:

I'm filling in our 2007 Actual harvests north of Grand Rapids:

Normal peak harvest dates for varieties for the Grand Rapids area.

Variety Normal date 2006 predicted date 2007 Actual Date
Yellow Transparent XXX XXX 7-12
Paulared 8-24 8-18
Gingergold 9-2 8-26
Gala 9-10 9-3
McIntosh 9-15 9-6
Honeycrisp 9-18 9-12
Empire 9-20 9-14
Jonathan 9-28 9-23
Jonagold 9-28 9-23
Golden Delicious 10-2 9-25
Red Delicious 10-5 9-30
Idared 10-10 10-2
Rome 10-15 10-9
Fuji 10-25 10-20
Braeburn 10-25 10-20
Goldrush 11-1 10-26
Firecracker Salsa, from the Cherry Marketing Institute http://www.cherrymkt.org/ :

I was amazed to find out that 75% of the cherries sold in the US are raised in Northern Michigan (Lower Peninsula), around the Traverse City area.

1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup cherry preserves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 chopped yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped jalapeno pepper, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice

Combine dried cherries, cherry preserves, and vinegar in a small microwave-safe bowl; mix well. Microwave on high (100% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until hot. Let stand 5 minutes.

Stir in red onion, yellow bell pepper, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and lime juice. Refrigerate, covered, 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Serve with grilled swordfish or tuna. It's also excellent as a topping for hamburgers. (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Environmentally Verified?
We visited the Chateau Grand Traverse Winery on Old Mission Peninsula while on vacation, and took the winery tour and a tasting. I noticed a sign in the grape arbor - This farm is environmentally verified. I asked about it and the tour guide indicated that it was a step to becoming certified organic in Michigan.

I found this information on the Jackson County (MI) Conservation District web site: "MAEAP is an innovative, proactive, program that helps farms of all sizes and all commodities voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks. MAEAP teaches farmers how to identify and prevent environmental risks and comply with state and federal regulations. Farmers who successfully complete the three phases of a MAEAP system are rewarded by becoming verified in that system."

OK, I can google with the best of them, so I googled MAEAP, and found http://www.maeap.org. There are some interesting Powerpoint presentations on the future of agriculture in Michigan on this site.
WOO-EE! We just got back from 2 weeks of vacation. Before I left I picked all the little baby zucchini and yellow squash, 2 or 3 inches long, and congratulated myself on my foresight in eliminating overgrown squash. Ha! I underestimated how prolific these suckers are. I picked about 30 zukes more than 18 inches long and big around as a football. And a five-gallon bucket of yellow squash.

Who can I give these too? My daughters have already refused to take any. I'm giving the neighbors a few smallers ones. I can maybe give one of each to my parents. I'm shredding some of them right now for freezing using the vacuum sealer, and maybe a loaf of zucchini bread, and perhaps a zucchini spice cake. There's more on the vine.

And, I still have to deal with the bushel of yellow transparent apples I picked at the farm day yesterday, cook dinner, and make a cherry pie for dear, dear hubby.

Here's tonight's dinner:


8 oz. uncooked lasagna noodles
15 oz. carton Ricotta cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
Dash of pepper1 egg, slightly beaten
2 (15 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 c. thinly sliced zucchini
4 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook noodles to desired doneness as directed on package. Drain; rinse with hot water.
In small bowl, combine Ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pepper and egg; set aside.
In 9x13 pan, layer 1/4 of the tomato sauce, 1/3 of the cooked lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the cheese mixture and 1/3 of the sliced zucchini; repeat layers 2 more times.
Spoon remaining 1/4 of the tomato sauce over top. Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove foil; bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly around sides. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Next time I'll share some of the wonderful recipes I picked up at the Traverse City Cherry festival.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Driving through the Traverse City, Michigan area this week, I was amazed at orchard after orchard after orchard of cherry trees, broken only by an occasional vineyard. We learned that 75 percent of the cherries in the US come from this area. I picked up a flyer from a "buy local" organization that covered farmers markets and produce from about a five-county area. Very slick publication. We in Ohio could learn from it!

Cherries are definitely in season here. The tart cherries are just finishing and the sweet cherries are in full swing. I've picked up some recipes that look marvelous.

Also learned a new phrase: "this farm has been environmentally verified".

Friday, July 06, 2007

Blue Ribbon-winning Cherry Pie.

Here is my recipe for Cherry Pie:
2 1/2 cups sour cherries
1/3 cup cherry juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 package cherry-flavored no-sugar gelatin mix

1 tablespoon butter
Pastry for 2 (9 inch) crusts

Combine filling ingredients (except butter). Let stand 15 minutes. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter. Place crust or strips on top as preferred. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 30 minutes. Makes 1 9-inch pie. (Double recipe if you want to use up all the gelatin, else discard)

Michigan Cherries! Last year we were too late for the tart cherries - we were waiting for our neighbor to tell us it was OK to go pick at his uncle's farm after the tree shakers had gone through. Finally, he said they had finished, and that unfortunately, the trees that they didn't shake didn't have much on them. So we went to buy cherries at a local farmers, and they said that there had been a hailstorm the week before picking that had damaged a lot of the cherries, and they had finished the week before and had a disappointing harvest - sent everything they had to the packers.

Since my husband doesn't want ot miss out on cherry pies this year, he made sure that we called the farmer when we arrived in Michigan. They said the U-pick operation was going Monday and Tuesday this week, and that they were shaking (and sending to the packer) on Thursday, and they would let us "dip" into the tubs on Thursday.

We ended up buying 30 pounds of tart cherries, and spent half the day pitting them. We've decided that next year we will either buy them already pitted, or else we will have a cherry pitter. Here's one from Lehman's Hardware in Kidron, Ohio. Sure beats the tool we were using...

If you know what the original purpose of this tool was, leave a comment! Hint: I found this piece of equipment in my husband's grandmother's sewing machine desk. I knew right where to go to find it, because as a child when I pitted cherries with my grandma and aunties, they used a similar tool. And these devices were kept in the sewing machine desk drawer. To use it, you use a motion very similar to knitting. First you stab the cherry at the top, where the stem grew, then you scoop around to dislodge the pit, then remove the tool and 95% of the time the pit falls right into your bowl.

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