Sour Cherry Farm — the place — is our 50-foot by 132 1/2-foot plot of land (that’s .15 of an acre.) in the Lower Hudson Valley, 15 miles north of New York City.
We grow sour cherries, apricots, pears, apples, plums, blueberries, strawberries, currants, gooseberries, blackberries, tomatoes, lettuces, carrots, onions, celery, zucchini, tons of herbs and a a few flowers for cutting. We try to cook, eat and drink by the seasons.
Sour Cherry Farm — the website — is the look at our lives: a busy couple doing their best at eating from the garden while keeping one foot in the modern world. We commute in heavy traffic. We go to the movies. We like spicy chicken wings and French fries. We don’t claim to be locavores — we just happen to like delicious food, and it’s usually most delicious when it’s fresh from our garden.
Our motto is Eat. Drink. Live. — and we figure that gives us a lot of leeway when it comes to what we post here. It’s usually recipes, restaurants and travel — all with a healthy dose of drinking. But we also have correspondents, so you’ll find posts from China, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
If you’d like to read an official version of how Sour Cherry Farm came to be, Click to open (or download) the PDF of this piece published in Arrive magazine.
Here’s a more casual version:
Back when we lived the urban life, I started experimenting with jellies and jams. One summer, mom and I hit on a good recipe for sour cherry preserves. We got together for an afternoon of boiling water and cooking down fruit and made a couple pints. It was damn delicious.
I continued the tradition for a couple years, and, when it came to be that our wedding date would fall right during the season, we decided that for wedding favors, we’d give out little 1-ounce jars of sour cherry preserves. You know, like the size you get on a room-service breakfast tray. My college roommate owns a pasta sauce company, so she ordered 200 jars from her supplier, and we were ready to go.
For a few years before this, sour cherries had been appearing the third week in June and lasting through the Fourth of July. But 2001 had a cool spring, and the cherries were running late. We panicked.
I called farms throughout the Hudson Valley, hoping (praying) that someone would have ripe sour cherries. We found them at Locust Grove Farm on the banks of the Hudson; likely the waterfront location had something to do with their being earlier there, even though it was further north.
Greg drove up to collect the 30-pound box of cherries. All my girlfriends were roped in to help wash, pit, stem, measure, stir, boil, sanitize and fill jars. We also tied a place card with a guest’s name to each jar with raffia and used them as place cards at the tables. (And to create the seating chart: I have this hilarious memory of my sister and I looking at the dining room table with 150 1-ounce jars of sour cherry preserves gathered in groups of 10. “No, move such-and-so to this table,” she say, and I’d pick up two jars of jam and seat them with someone else.)
Most people were quite taken with the idea that we’d spent time making a favor for them from scratch (much less impressed with the genius of doubling it as a place card!) Of course, some people forgot their jars when they left the wedding. (You expected it wouldn’t be a good party?) I even had one guest say to me later: “Hey, I didn’t realize you’d made the jam. I forgot mine — would you be able to get it for me?”
A year later, when we bought the farm, we immediately planted a sour cherry tree. The name of the farm was a natural.
Later, we talked about how appropriate sour cherry preserves really were as a wedding favor. Sour cherries are a good metaphor for a marriage: They don’t taste very good until you add sugar and stir with love. You have to treat them gingerly, because they’re fragile and bruise easily. They only grow in places where the winter freezes — like Minnesota and the Hudson Valley. And their season may be ephemeral and fleeting, but you can keep them for a very long time if you make the effort to preserve them.