They say life is like a bowl of cherries. I’m not sure what that means in other places, but here in Michigan, if your life is well represented by a bowl of cherries then it must be pretty darn good. Cherries are spectacular for our economy, and of course they are exceptionally tasty, which is why they make their way into a wide range of scrumptious products from savory to sweet to spirited. There are so many tasty cherry offerings available around the state that I’m about to be the Bubba Gump of cherries. There’s cherry barbecue sauce and cherry salsa and cherry scones…you get the point. Check out these many options.
Sauce & Salsa
Starting on the savory side, next time you fire up the grill, add a little cherry BBQ sauce to give your food a uniquely Michigan flavor. It is a particularly nice complement to ribs or chicken. Brownwood Farms Cherry Barbecue Sauce has a little extra heat with its sweet. Though I’ve yet to try, the makers say its even great on French fries. Speaking of heat and sweet, shake up your family’s chips and salsa routine with the tangy and tantalizing Fessler’s Cherry Salsa. Try it with grilled or baked fish to make a healthy dish taste decadent.
Spreads & Preserves
Want to take an ordinary piece of toast and make it a masterpiece? All it takes is a knife and one of these cherry-laden products. Sleeping Bear Farms Cherry Honey Crème combines our fruit du jour with their famous star thistle honey. The taste is delightful, though beware, this one is more honey than cherry. Food For Thought’s Truly Natural Cherry Bourbon Preserves is a rich, unique combination of Michigan tart cherries and Grand Traverse Distillery bourbon. Then there’s Cherry Bomb from Wee Bee Jammin’ which is quite simply da bomb. The flavor in these tart and sweet cherry preserves is so scrumptious you’ll want to eat it straight from the jar.
Of course we make incredible maple syrup in this state, but if that’s not your preference, or you just want to change things up, then you know what I’m going to say. Yep, cherry syrup is a real treat, especially when it comes from the king of all things cherry, Glen Arbor’s Cherry Republic. It is great over pancakes and waffles on its own, or with a little butter. Pour it over some vanilla ice cream if you want that pie a la mode taste without all the calories of pie. If you still want your maple, but with a hint of cherry, then Michigan Maple Farms has a wonderful option.
If you think they are delish when plucked straight from the tree, wait until you try the dried version. All of the sweetness really comes through. Use them as an alternative to raisins in a school lunch, toss them on a salad to give it extra zip, or eat them right out of the bag. You can find them from Germack, Ferris, and Shoreline just to name a few.
Tart Cherry Juice
Well this one isn’t just good, it’s good for you. Many studies show that tart cherry juice fights inflammation. It may even help your muscles recover from a tough workout. Cherries pack a powerful antioxidant and antiviral punch too, so it may boost your immune system. Look for juices that use 100% cherry juice with no added sweeteners like these from Meijer and Cherry Bay Orchards.
Certainly you can buy some cherries and bake away, but if you’d rather take an easier way out, there are some incredible options readily available in a store near you. Wallace Scones White Chocolate Cherry frozen dough is as simple as fresh-baked goodness can get. Just take them out of the package, pop them on a cooking sheet and bake. Don’t be fooled by the fact that these are scones and could be dry. They are rich in flavor and deliciously moist.
If you want to make things even easier on yourself, or want to avoid turning on an oven in the summer, then it’s time to turn to a trusted pie maker. Anchored in the heart of cherry country, Grand Traverse Pie Company bakes a wide range of cherry-rich pies all year, and for a limited time in the summer you can even get a Vernors Cherry Pie from them. Two local legends, Montmorency cherries and Vernors ginger ale make for a pie sensation. Downstate, you can count on scrumptious choices from Achatz or the hilariously-monikered Jeni’s Ugly Pies as well.
Thankfully our favorite pitted-fruit makes its way into many a creamy delight, and we are equally thankful that we have so many spectacular ice cream makers here too. Guernsey makes a magical Black Cherry. Have you tried Hudsonville’s Traverse City Cherry Fudge yet? Not surprisingly, the incredible Cherries Moobilee is just one of the options from Traverse City-based Moomers. In fact, you can find an ice cream featuring cherries at nearly any local parlor, many of which are worthy of a road trip.
If you like cherry-flavored candies then you’ll likely enjoy Cherry Republic’s delicious gummy bears and licorice, though there’s cherry flavor, not actual cherries. The company does cover its actual fruits in all kinds of chocolatey goodness too. A particularly spectacular addition to the lineup is Amaretto Chocolate Covered Cherries. Meanwhile over at Kilwins are the incredible Pastel Chocolate Cherries which are Bing Cherries in premium milk chocolate with a delicate cherry shell.
If you’ve never tried a cherry wine then you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s a reason why Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Prince, Foo Fighters, and Sheryl Crow have all sung about this particular libation. Some are light and really sweet, others have more complexity. Buy a few and do a tasting just like you would with wines made from grapes and you’ll really identify some differences. Good examples to start with are Traverse Bay, Lakeshore Farms, and Cherry Creek.
Frosty Adult Beverages
Hard seltzers and ciders, and even some beers have begun to incorporate cherries to a delightful level. Atwater’s Cherry Seltzer may well be the best of its lineup. Blake’s Saint Chéri Hard Cider is crafted with Michigan-grown Montmorency cherries and bourbon barrel-aged for a rich full flavor. Founders has even reissued Cerise, a cherry ale that is exclusive to Michigan. It’s a summer sister to its raspberry phenom, Rubaeus, which is one of my favorite fruity beers.
Grand Traverse Distillery’s cherry spirits, both vodka and whiskey, are so good you can sip them on their own or make a scrumptious cocktail of course. There is a delicious scent, genuine cherry taste, and a warm feeling on the back of your throat as you indulge. Give your favorite old cocktail a new kick or concoct a brand new drink, and be sure to send us the recipe.
There are so many incredible products made Michigan featuring our favorite pitted fruit that I simply cannot name them all. Suffice it to say, if you seek a pleasant cherry taste, look about you.