Talking cherries

Montmorency cherries Seaquist Orchards

It’s the question I am asked the most as a resident of Door County.   When will the cherries be ready?

Door County, located on a quaint peninsula that juts 70 miles out into the waters for Green Bay and Lake Michigan, is THE place for cherries if you live in Wisconsin.   With an average crop between 6 to 10 million pounds a year, the tiny peninsula ranks fourth in cherry production in the country.

Cherry blossoms typically arrive around the week before Memorial Day.   Come mid-July, those delicate flowers have transformed into ripe, delicious cherries, ready to be put in pies, tarts and jams.  But you have to work fast!   The season only lasts around 3 to 4 weeks.   Luckily, the cherries freeze extremely well so you can savor them throughout the year.

The majority of cherries grown in Door County are a bright red sour variety called Montmorency.   Ninety-nine percent of the crop is made up of the cherry red (pardon the pun) beauties.    Sour cherries are not for eating raw.   They are best when transformed into a tart cherry pie, jam or crisp.   Preferred by bakers, the Montmorency retains its shape and holds up well to heat.

But don’t be surprised to see some other cherry varieties when you visit your favorite orchard in Door County.    Sour cherry varieties known as Richmond and Balaton are also found in the county as well as some sweet varieties.

When cooking with cherries, remember that the sour varieties are the ones you want to steer towards.    Sweet cherries are great for eating, but don’t hold up to heat well.   Use them in salads or any other recipes that call for raw cherries.

Visiting Door County to pick cherries?   Check out the Cherry Report on the Door County Visitor’s Bureau website.   You will know when the blossoms are ready to view and when the cherries are ready to pick.

Learn more about cherries by reading my cherry article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Here are a couple of recipes to get in the mood to pick and eat the favorite fruit of Door County….the cherry!

Tart cherry hand pie

Sour Cherry Hand Pies
make a “hand held” pie…..perfect when you want your own individual cherry pie!


Sweet Cherry and Nectarine Bruschetta
goat cheese spread with fresh mint on top of toasted French bread with sweet cherries and nectarines


Chilled Cherry and Pinot Noir Soup

Serve as an appetizer or a dessert, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet


Sour Cherry Clafouti
Make in a cast-iron skillet, this French classic is great for dessert or breakfast.

rawsaladmilligan2 1

Raw Vegetable Salad with Dried Door County Cherries
and Hard Cider Vinaigrette

A mixture of raw finely chopped vegetables is tossed with dried Door County cherries and crunchy walnuts.
Fun fact…….It takes 8 pounds of cherries to make one pound of dried cherries!


Sour Cherry Ketchup

Cherry ketchup?   Try it, you’ll love it!
Great on a burger, grilled fish, pork or chicken.   I can it and have it available year-round.

Posted in Appetizers, Desserts, Holiday & Entertaining, sides, Soups & Salads, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tagged , , ,

Uncork Summer Recipes

rawsaladmilligan2 1

with walnuts and dried Door County cherries

serves 8

Salad ingredients

  • 5 cups shaved or julienne-cut vegetables
  • (Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Fennel, Radish, Beets etc)
  • use a mandoline slicer for best results
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
  • ½ cup crumbled crispy bacon
  • ½ cup dried Door County cherries
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, mint leaves or fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup crumbed goat cheese (optional)

Hard Cider Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup Island Orchard Brut Apple Hard Cider or Pear Hard Cider
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Wisconsin maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  •  salt and pepper to taste

Combine the shaved vegetables, nuts, crispy bacon, dried cherries and chopped fresh herbs.   Toss gently to combine.

Prepare the vinaigrette by placing the hard apple cider, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, chopped garlic clove and maple syrup in a mixing bowl.   Gradually add the extra-virgin olive oil.

Toss enough vinaigrette into the prepared vegetable salad.   Season generously with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate any leftover vinaigrette.    If desired, top salad with crumbled goat cheese.


Lavender Lemon Pound Cake
With Door County Cherries “Jubilee”
makes two loaves
If desired, drizzle with a light frosting made wit powdered sugar, lavender sugar and a little milk.

lavender sugar

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender

Prepare by placing sugar and lavender in a spice grinder, blender or small food processor.   Process until lavender is ground and incorporated into the sugar.   Store at room temperature.

 Lavender Pound cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup lavender sugar
  • ½ cup regular sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

With an electric mixer, beat the lavender sugar and regular sugar with the room temperature butter.   Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.  Beat until light and fluffy – about 3 to 4 minutes on medium-high.

While butter is beating, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

On medium-low speed, add the eggs, on at a time, beating between additions.    Alternately add the flour mixture and the sour cream to the butter mixture.    Spread mixture into two lightly greased and floured 8X4X2 loaf pans.

Bake in a 350-degree oven until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean….about 45 to 50 minutes.

Door County Cherries “Jubilee”

  • 1 pound fresh or thawed frozen Montmorency (sour) cherries, pitted
  • ½ cup lavender sugar or regular sugar
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons brandy, kirsch or Grand Marnier
  • optional – 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons water or cherry juice

Heat the cherries, sugar, orange juice and vanilla in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stirring now and then until sugar dissolves.

Remove pan from heat and add the liqueur.    Return to the heat and carefully ignite with a match or the flame of your burner.   If flame is too high, place a cover over the mixture to extinguish.    If desired, drizzle in a little of the cornstarch/water mixture to thicken the mixture.  The heat needs to be on low for the mixture to thicken with cornstarch.

Serve over lemon lavender pound cake or ice cream.

Posted in Desserts, Holiday & Entertaining, sides | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A “Use it All” Recipe – Carrot Top Pesto


Summer is fast approaching and that means plenty of fresh farm produce will  soon be available, just waiting to be added to a favorite warm weather recipe.

Pesto is the perfect summer recipe.   It’s fresh, colorful and you don’t even need to turn on an oven.

Try a new version of pesto by creating a carrot top pesto.   Yes, that’s right!   The whole carrot is used to make this terrific flavorful spread, including the feathery carrot tops.   Try it with some simple roasted carrots, as a spread on your favorite cracker or as a substitute for mayonnaise on a summer vegetable roasted sandwich.

Here’s a quick one minute video that shows you how easy it is to whip up.

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