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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Reclaiming What is Rightfully Ours: Using Unripe Sweet Cherries before the Birds, Raccoons, and Squirrels Get Them

Every year, same story. Those pesky pests (squirrels, raccoons, blackbirds) beat us to the cherries before we can enjoy even a handful. Earlier this year, we began scheming how we could beat those rascals to the punch.

Yesterday morning, after chasing 6 blackbirds out of one cherry tree, I made a call in my house for all hands on deck. The family joined me to pick all of the reddish cherries we could find. We left the yellow and barely peachy ones on the tree, but got a bucket full of the red, but unripe ones. (These cherries would normally be dark red when ripe, like a Bing cherry.) When picked underripe, the cherries are not as sweet and lacking a bit in flavor.

After lunch, I set out to pit and use these cherries. I decided on an open-faced pie. Cherries meant for eating fresh tend to be quite juicy, so a pie without a top crust would allow for evaporation of liquids. I added sugar, lemon juice, and almond extract until the flavor was just right. The lemon juice gave the cherries the tartness they needed while the almond extract boosted the cherry flavor.

In the end, it was 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 1  1/2 teaspoons almond extract that gave cherries enough for 1 full pie just the right flavor. I also tossed the cherries with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to help thicken the juices. In hind sight, I would increase the cornstarch to 3 tablespoons for thickening.

This is how full the pie pastry was before baking, to give you an idea of how many cherries will yield a full pie.

I baked the pie at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then I reduced the temp to 350 degrees F and baked another 30 minutes. At this point, the crust and some of the cherries were browning, so I covered the pie with an inverted pan (our skillet which has lost its handle was just the right diameter and depth) and baked for another 15 minutes.

After baking, this is how much the cherries "shrunk" down. 

The family agreed -- this pie was absolutely delicious.

There are enough of the ripening cherries for me to do this one more time later this week, if we can keep those pests out of the tree.

Making the most of what we can get from our garden this year.


  1. Glad you could salvage some of your cherries! Fruit trees seem to be hard for the home gardener to manage. My in-laws have peach trees and seem to constantly be battling some sort of bug or critter (if the buds don't get damaged by cold weather in the spring!).

    I always used to have problems getting cherry pie filling just right--it was either too runny or heavy like a rock. I've switched to a recipe where I cook down the cherries on the stovetop before adding them to the pie shell. While my pies are tasty, they aren't exactly pretty, but at least I can get the consistency right with this method!

    1. Hi Kris,
      pre-cooking the cherry pie filling is an excellent idea. I've done that with apple filling to ensure the apples are soft enough and it works very well. I may try that with the other half of the cherries. Thank you!

      I wouldn't exactly say my pies are "pretty" either! ha ha!

      Have a great day, Kris.

  2. "All hands on deck" - haha I like that! The cherries really did sink down. My husband had a strawberry patch by our shed for years, it was a constant battle with chipmunks. This year, we're battle the little buggers again. We have chickens and keep their food in our garage, they look for the small opening to enter through! They're quite determined.
    Anywho....the pie looks delish!

    1. Hi Shelby,
      Those chipmunks are really persistent, aren't they? The squirrels in our yard are the same way. They're cute, but wow, what work to keep them out of our food supply.

      I hope you have a great day, Shelby.

  3. That looks delicious! I love cherries. As a kid, we picked tart cherries and mom canned those for winter eating. What a great memory. Today, I only get store bought cherries but still love them.

    Birds eating cherries and bunnies eating dad's green beans. So the critters get all kinds of goodies not meant for them. Last year dad lost ALL of his green beans. This year he planted closer to the road so no bunnies and lots of beans!


    1. Hi Alice,
      That was clever of your dad to put the green beans in a spot where the bunnies wouldn't likely go. I'll have to remember that with our garden.

      The memory of your mom canning tart cherries for winter must be a lovely one to savor for you.

      Have a wonderful day, Alice!

  4. We have a sour cherry tree that makes great pies, but this year some kind of mildew got them all before we got any. A huge disappointment. However, I did make a blueberry and strawberry pie for the Fourth, but filled the pie crust too full so not only did it run over onto the pan the pie plate was on, but into the bottom of the oven. Unfortunately, that meant an unplanned oven clean. But the pie was tasty! :)

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Oh, how disappointing with this year's cherries. Your blueberry and strawberry pie sounds delicious, though! I can relate to the unplanned oven cleaning. Ugh. Such is life.

      Have a great day, Live and Learn.

  5. We got a window bird feeder for Christmas and we had a squirrel that I scared away and a chipmunk who made himself at home and scared the birds away. Could you get netting to help?

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      The chipmunk thinks you got a chipmunk feeder for Christmas. He must not have been able to read the box.

      I've read about using netting. We may try that next year. The tree is small enough that I think with just a little more pruning I could manage that myself. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Wishing you a wonderful day, Cheryl.

  6. What has worked really well for us to keep the birds out of our cherry and apple trees is using old disposable tart shells.I wash them,poke a hole in the top and run some string through and then tie them all over the trees as far as I can reach.Make sure there's enough string so that they can dangle in the wind.The shiny silver also reflects the sun into their eyes.

    1. Hi there,
      Years ago, we tried several shiny objects hung in the trees and blueberry bushes. The birds in our yard didn't seem to be bothered one bit. But I'm glad that this worked for you.

  7. Hello Lili,
    I'm so glad to see you back writing on your blog. I hope you had a good break and got to rest and relax. I was wondering which blog posts you would recommend to someone who is trying to stock up there pantry ecomomically? We have been trying to gather about 6 months of non-perishable items for 5 adults. It has been expensive and I don't want to waste money on unnecessary stuff.Thanks, Kathryn

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      Thank you for the welcome.

      Since you mentioned it, I've got a partial blog post written right now about putting together an emergency pantry. I'll try to finish this post up this week. I've included items and in some cases, the best prices/places that I've found. Look for this post later this week or on Saturday.

      Have a great day, Kathryn.


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