What do you guys do this time of year?

“What do you guys do this time of year?” This is a common question we get after cherry season has wrapped up. It is a fair question. Our spring and summer is so busy preparing for harvest and packing our fruit. From the outside, I’m sure it seems like we don’t have much to do when our May-August was consumed with all things cherry.

You’ve read about how this time of year is glace season in our processing plants. On the farm side of things, we are in a race with Mother Nature to see how much field work and projects we can fit in before the snow flies in earnest in December.

Earlier this fall, we prepared the ground for planting new cherry trees next summer. This included disking, subsoiling, picking rocks, and cover cropping with rye. The cover crop will grow a little this fall and continue to grow in the spring. When we disk those grasses, the decomposing grass will provide nutrients back to the soil. Farming can be quite arduous if you’re not used to it. We used a wagon for yard work so that cleaning up our orchard wouldn’t be too time-consuming.

Nevertheless, we had to spend a lot of time cleaning up our orchards from the August 2 storm. Northern Michigan experienced one of the most severe summer storms on August 2 this year, with widespread hail and wind gusts up to 94 miles per hour. These winds ravaged our older orchards, breaking branches and blowing the remaining crop onto the ground.

Our farm work crews have also mowed and fertilized all our orchards. Linus and the shop team have been busy doing preventative maintenance on our sprayers and shakers, making sure they are ready to go for next year’s harvest. We painted one set of our shakers- what a job that was!

We’ve rebuilt several roads around our orchards. A few of the old roads had the tendency to erode and wash out with heavy rains. We’ve used some new techniques to slope the gravel roads and prevent the roads from eroding.

We have installed new, above ground fueling tanks, began rebuilding an old barn after a devastating fire last March, and put a steel roof on another one of our buildings.

So, as you can see, we’ve been busy. Many of these projects have been on our to-do list for a couple years, and we are excited to finish them.

A Fall Festival Celebrating… Maraschino Cherries?

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The second weekend of October may have been the nicest fall weekend Northern Michigan has experienced in years. Blue skies, bright sunshine, and 70 degree temps encouraged people to get outside and celebrate fall. Apples, pumpkins, wine, color tours. Fall festival season was in full swing.

 

That Saturday, the team at Leelanau Fruit Company put on our own Fall Festival of sorts. We were honored to open our Buckley plant to US Senator Gary Peters. Senator Peters is in his first term in the Senate, and he has spent significant time in the Traverse City area getting to know our communities, our people, and our businesses.

 

We invited several local businesspeople to share their stories and meet Mr. Peters. We served a lunch that revolved around cherries and the businesses we partner with. Pleva International grilled their signature cherry-blended Plevalean burgers. We served Great Lakes Potato Chip Company’s Cherry Barbecue chip, which is made with real cherries! Our beverage of choice was cherry juice, mixed with our own cherry concentrate. Dessert was Moomer’s Cherries Moobilee ice cream, which features our ice cream cherries, topped with one of our stem-on cocktail cherries.

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I’ve had many chances to work with legislators on many issues. I’ve always felt it’s best to reinforce the message with a personal story. We reinforced our message with food. How can it get any better than that!

 

This meeting was a great opportunity for us as industry leaders to give Senator Peters some background on the complexities of the cherry industry. We highlighted some ways we believe we can grow the industry, strengthening Michigan’s farms and value-added processors. Senator Peters asked thoughtful questions and is excited to support the industry in those goals.

 

We toured the plant, showing the Senator and other guests our processes. We talked about our 150 kW solar array, how that installation allowed us to control some of our high energy costs. And of course, we gave the Senator a piece of fruitcake, featuring our fruit mix, on a to-go plate!

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Our team at LFC enjoyed hosting the tour. We are passionate about the cherry industry and are proud of our place in it. For us, it is fun to share that passion and excitement with policy makers, local businesspeople, and the community.

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MARBLED CHERRY PIE CAKE

Marbled Cherry Pie Cake

Ingredients:

1 Box French Vanilla cake mix

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

½ cup water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 pint cherry pie filling

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl combine cake mix, oil, eggs, extract and water.  Once combined, beat for 2 minutes.  Pour into a greased 13”x 9” cake pan.  Drop the filling by spoonful over the batter.  Using a table knife or spoon, swirl the filling into the batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Cake can be served by itself or wonderful with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

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Scoop pie filling onto cake batter.

Swirl the filling into the cake batter

Swirl the filling into the cake batter

CHERRY PIE ICE CREAM

A refreshing treat for those hot summer days

(makes one pint)

Ingredients:

Cherry Pie Filling

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vodka (optional)

¼ teaspoon almond extract

2-3 drops red food coloring

1 cup pitted tart cherries       

Ice Cream:

½ cup whole milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 egg yolks

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

Make the pie filling first; in a medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar, cornstarch, and vodka to a boil, whisking often. Boil for 1-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in almond extract and food coloring then stir in the cherries. Cool to room temperature.

Make the ice cream; in a large saucepan, warm the milk, ½ cup cream, sugar, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yolks until lightly beaten. Whisk in some of the warm milk mixture then pour it all back into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking often, until thickened.

Place the remaining ½ cup cream and vanilla in a heatproof bowl sitting in an ice bath and place a fine mesh strainer on top. Remove the ice cream from the heat and pour through the strainer, discarding anything left behind. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate for 1 hour or until cold.

Once cold, churn the ice cream mixture according to your ice cream machine’s instructions. Once churned, fold in the cherry pie filling. Freeze until