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MSP Fresh Tart Cherries-where??!

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So there I was at the Saint Paul Farmer's Market. Behold! The cherry lady!! I sidle up.
Got any tart cherries, I ask?
Our cool Minnesota spring caused a major cherry crop failure, sez she. We. Got. Squat.

Oh, unhappy day!
True, probably more for her than me, but still...

Anybody have a source in town for fresh tart cherries? Rumor has it that Washington state has had a good cherry year. I have Maraschino cherries to put up and sorbet to make!


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  1. Try St. Paul Farmers' Market one more time. In the middle aisle, closer to 4th and 5th, on the right-hand side facing 4th, is a blond guy who I've always purchase my tart cherries from. I have not been able to get there this year, however (always been out of town). Early in the year, he sells honey and some other fruits. But he has been my go to source year in and year out.

    I also have a friend who has some tart cherry trees on his property. I'll e-mail and ask how his trees did this year and report back. But I seem to recall him saying that his trees "shut down" overy three years or so.

    I know strawberries were late this year due to cold. Maybe cherries as well???

    If you order out of state, look to Michigan.

    1. I just bought some dark red sour Door County cherries at the Mississippi Market on Selby/Dale yesterday. I am not sure if dark red sour is exactly what you're looking for (tart)?

      2 Replies
      1. re: LizzieB_MSP

        The Door County cherries I bought at the Mississippi Market at Randolph and Fairview (assuming they're part of the same batch) were dark and sweet. Not even close to sour/tart. Tru tart cherries are almost impossible to eat without cooking and adding sugar.

        BTW, Queen Anne (golden) Door County cherries are also available at Mississippi Market.

        1. re: Brad Ballinger

          Hmm. The sign definitely said "sour" but they are edible without sugar, so they probably aren't what the OP is looking for.

      2. Minneapolis Farmer Market.

        1. I am definitely going to check these St. Paul farmers market sources and remember them for next year.

          The problem with sour cherries is that they don't keep well. (Or so I understand.) So they usually don't ship from long distances and you are usually able to just get them frozen. So fresh ones from the west coast may not be an option.

          At the Mississippi Market store on Selby, I saw two kinds of cherries from Door County. There were dark ones. I sampled those and they were sweet ones. There was also a bin of bright red ones. Those looked like the sour ones to me.

          3 Replies
          1. re: karykat

            Maybe that's why the MM at Randolph and Fairview is moving -- not as big as the one at Selby and Dale. No sour ones at the former. Assumed that MM would offer the same at both locations, but looks like that's not the case.

            You are right that they don't ship well fresh. But frozen is okay. When I buy fresh, I spend the rest of the morning pitting and then I freeze them for future use. A good substitute is jarred Morello cherries.

            1. re: karykat

              If they're from the same vendor, then they are both sweet varieties.

              There were NO sour cherries at either Mississippi Market-Selby or Seward co-op last weekend.

              1. re: KTFoley

                I was curious because the bright red ones I saw there looked like sour cherries so I called MM and learned that indeed they were sweet cherries.

                Another place to check if you don't mind paying for shipping is Earthy.com. You can preorder cherries from them. They have sweet ones (which began shipping on July 17) and what they call tart cherries which they say will start shipping on August 4. Apparently this is a different variety of tart cherry called Balaton from Hungary that is less tart than the traditional ones. I suspect they are still plenty tart but that you would just be using less sugar with them.

                Anyway, you may want to check with them. Apparently you have to preorder to get them from Earthy.com.

            2. Our Story So Far:

              1.) I thoroughly tossed the Saint Paul Farmer's Market on Sunday, to no avail. I have seen (and bought from) the blond gent. No sign of him on Sunday. It is possible that he isn't there on Sundays, but that is usually when I am there, so I don't think that he was there.
              2.) Both Mississippi Markets don't seem to have what I need. Though the Selby store had some Meyer Lemons, leading me to thoughts of Meyer Lemon Sidecars.
              3.) Whole Foods Fairview, nothing.
              4.) BeyerLund's has nothing, but promised to look around and call. If they do call, that would probably qualify as a miracle, since this otherwise marks the third time in a row that ByerLund's has claimed that they'll call me about something and I've never heard from them again.
              5.) My sweetie is coming in from Seattle tomorrow, and has located frozen tart cherries there, but none fresh. Ergo, she'll be bringing some with her, assuming that something named after an explosive can get through the security cordon that guard our skies.
              6.) She and I'll be roadtripping to Michigan next month, and we may continue the Quest on that side of the Lake.
              7.) I haven't yet tried the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. I may this weekend. Thanks for that suggestion.
              8.) Tart cherries are indeed just that, and you generally wouldn't want to eat them straight, without some form of sweetening. You'll get a pretty good pucker if you do.
              9.) My experience has been that we only have a couple week window here in the Cities. Even allowing for the cold spring, that window is sliding shut. I have a batch from last year (preserved in cognac-an experiment-a waste of good cognac) dated 25 July, which is what I base this on.
              10.) The jarred Morello cherries that I have acquired from Trader Joe's have been only alright, and not a good substitute in my case, but that is, of course, a matter of individual taste, and I'm grateful for the reminder.

              Thank you all for the help so far. I find anything, I'll report back!

              3 Replies
              1. re: ajs

                I have some frozen ones left over from last season, but only enough to make a sauce/salsa. Nothing for a pie or cobbler, sadly.

                Re: Michigan, the season may be on the tail end, but good luck to you.

                Re: blond gent, I've only been to the market on Saturdays. Always see him there in the same spot.

                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                  We were in Michigan last week and cherries were readily available around the Traverse City area at roadside stands and pick your own places. Their big cherry festival was two weeks ago.

                2. re: ajs

                  We're on the same quest.

                  I've ordered my tart cherries for the past 4 years from Afton Orchard, but their Michigan source wasn't supplying this year. I've not been able to find any fresh local, anywhere. Have been on most of the same wild goose chases as you have.

                  King's Orchard in Michigan will ship their fresh Montmorencies, but only overnight. And the shipping cost alone is $70 for 10 lbs. When I spoke to the woman at the orchard she said they'd start shipping frozen via 2-day air (so at least a bit cheaper) in November.

                  Lucky you...to have friend with friends with cherries!

                  Morellos really aren't a decent substitute. Any cherries canned won't be as good as fresh, but water-canned will do in a pinch. For those of you who are curious, you should be able to find water packed sour cherries (also sometimes called "pie cherries") in local markets. Make sure they're Montmorency. Or, you can order direct from Kings; 12 15-oz. cans for $27; 24 cans for $50.

                  In the meantime, I'm hording the few bags of frozen sours and jars of maraschino and pickled cherries left from what I put up last year.

                3. i have ordered U.P tart cherries from Afton Apple a couple of time. they are quite good. you have to order at least 10# and they are about $3.70/pound. not sure if they are still taking orders or what. 651.436.8389.

                  1. Looks like I have 6lbs. frozen inbound tomorrow from Seattle.
                    I put out a cry for help to a group of friends. One of them has a relative in the Door County area. According to said relative, this year's cherry crop was worth about $250k. Normally, it would be closer to $11m.

                    Since our Michigan roadtrip will take her to the Traverse City area, I am optimistic about finding perhaps more frozen solutions to the problem n a couple of weeks.

                    Thanx for the tips about Earthy and Afton Apple. Within 24 hours, I should know if the first part of my crisis has been averted, and I'll have sorbet for a dinner party this weekend.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ajs

                      Whew. Thanks for the update. $250K vs. $11MM is a giant difference. Scary. The odd thing is, I haven't really noticed a giant difference in the price of cherries at the market. Seems like I should given those economics. I will say that the local cherries I've had (the much discussed ones from Mississippi Market--we got both varieties as I like the dark red ones and he likes the orange-y ones) just haven't been that sweet (compared to what they have at Lunds, for instance, which I think are coming from Seattle). I didn't know if that was typical of the Door County cherries or due to some of the weather issues ajs described.

                      ajs, if you have time to share, I'd love to hear about your sorbet recipe over on the home cooking board and also about how you're putting up Maraschino cherries. (Okay, is this the moment I get to tell you all that I canned my first vegetables--ever--this past weekend? Green beans! Very exciting for a city gal like me!) A sorbet that sends you scurrying all over town for cherries must be crave-worthy indeed.

                      Good luck with your dinner party!


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        It's a little embarrassing, but my sorbet recipe doesn't exist as such. It's little more than toss a bunch of cherries into the food processor, add some sweetener (like simple syrup), let it down with a little sparkling water (and/or cherry sody-pop), puree it, pour it into the ice cream freezer, go to town.
                        Sometimes I add a few drops of an industrial almond oil of which I have some of the last bottles in Christendom.

                        I did, though, find a good-looking recipe in another thread. One of the flaws of my method is that, frozen overnight, the texture becomes hard and ice-like. Probably has to do with the sugar level. The thread implies that the poster may have that problem licked. It rarely lasts long enough with me for that to be a problem.

                        Maraschino cherries are even simpler:
                        1.) Wash, pit, and dry some tart cherries.
                        2.) Fill a jar with them.
                        3.) Fill the remainder of the jar with Maraschino liqueur.
                        4.) Come back in a few days/weeks.
                        5.) Add cherries/Maraschino as needed. They're in alcohol-they're not gonna go bad on anything less than a geologic time scale. And the liquid just keeps improving.

                        I have found two kinds of Marachino liqueur, Stock and Luxardo. Both cost $25-30/bottle. My personal preference is for Luxardo.
                        The liqueur is also useful in making an Aviation cocktail, a sort of Gin cousin to the Sidecar.
                        Put those cherries in a Manhattan (along with a dash of the marinade) or atop a chocolate dessert, and be ready to soak up praise.

                        Karl_S' Sorbet Link:

                        1. re: ajs

                          Sounds delicious to me! Thanks for sharing. Good luck with your quest.


                    2. Following up... My friend who has a Meteor cherry tree said there was hardly any crop this year. He checked with some other growers and was told that cherries, like apples, will have some years were production is low.