Summers in Michigan are by far my favorite time of year! Yes, I am excited to tend to my garden and watch it catapult from seed to harvest, and of course I love a good campfire after a day of swimming and fishing, yet the biggest attribute to living in our great state is the abundance of summer fruits soon to be ripe for the picking! You can always count on me, The Canning Diva®, to have fresh fruit preservation on my mind and our state is packed full of amazing summer-goodness to enjoy all year ‘round!
One of my favorite summer ingredients isn’t grown in my home garden but grown in my “backyard” of northern Michigan. The ever-famous cherry! Tart cherries are grown to make jams, jellies, pie fillings and for drying as they are rarely eaten fresh. Sweet cherry varieties are a summer favorite for us Michiganders as we are spoiled by street-side stands, markets and u-pick farms boasting this scrumptious treat! I will often use a sweet cherry to sweeten a recipe rather than add sugar.
An example of such would be my Peach Pistachio Conserve, which embodies two summertime fruits: cherries and peaches! With a touch of zest from an orange and a bit of zing from grated ginger root, the flavors blend perfectly and are complimented with a touch of nuttiness from the pistachio. This conserve is a flavorful addition atop goat cheese and an excellent addition to a Prosciutto and Pancetta plate. These blended summer flavors also taste excellent alongside scones and will delight your breakfast guests when served inside warm crepes.
Living in Michigan all of my life, it wasn’t until I was in high school until I learned the history of our Michigan cherries. A Presbyterian missionary and the first European settler in the Traverse City area also became the first cherry grower when he planted a cherry orchard on Old Mission Peninsula in 1852. The trees loved the drainage provided by the sandy soil and weathered our tough winters by making use of nearby Lake Michigan which tempered the Arctic winter wind and cooled the hot air of the summer. Essentially, that region of our state provides an excellent growing environment for the cherry trees! Today with 3.8 million tart cherry trees, Michigan produces 70 to 75 percent of the tart cherries grown in the United States.
In addition to Traverse City, West Michigan growers offer several u-pick farms and markets to purchase locally grown cherries and other summer favorites. Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm located off of Alpine and 6 Mile Rd in Grand Rapids offers patrons fresh cherries, strawberries, apples and peaches! This list of Michigan favorites is what inspired me to create a preserve, which embodies all of the flavors of a true Michigan summer! My Summer in a Jar recipe uses sweet cherries, apples, strawberries and raspberries and no sugar! I wanted the flavor of the fruits and berries to give us the sweetness we crave and incorporated apple juice rather than water.
Embrace our states natural resources this summer and make fond memories with those you love! In doing so, remember to incorporate our states scrumptious abundance and visit a local farm stand or market this season. For more fun recipes on how to home can and preserve such bounty, visit me online at www.CanningDiva.com.
From the Garden to the Jar™
Diane Devereaux, The Canning Diva®