Our town has a wonderful program called Harvest Share. Basically anyone who has any type of fruit or vegetable that they don't want or can't pick can call in and have volunteers come and pick for them. One third of the produce goes to the owner, one third to the volunteer picker, and one third to the food bank, the seniors' program, or some other feeding the needy agency.
Last week we got the call that a commercial cherry orchard had sustained so much wasp damage that it wasn't going to be picked and we were called in to glean it. Lots of volunteers came and lots of cherries were able to be saved. The picking was rough though. It took our group of 3 adults and 3 children 3 1/2 hours to pick 140 lbs. The bonus was that the owner didn't want any cherries so we took home 80 lbs. for us, and 2 ice-cream pails each for our friend and for granny. [Our friend's family is quite sick of cherries and granny didn't want many, we weren't being greedy they were being generous]
And did I mention the wasps? They weren't too pleased to have their food being bothered. Luckily I was the only one stung in our group, I'm not allergic and I'm a big girl so I sucked it up and kept on picking, a little more warily though!
Once we got home we fired up the production line. One child washed the cherries, removed stems, and tossed any with rot or mold.
I ran them through the cherry pitter. It doesn't work all that well on these huge cherries, next batch we skipped this and did the pitting manually.
The next child cut the cherries in half, removed any remaining pits, and put them cut side up on the dehydrator's trays. Have you met our dryer before? It is huge. Amazing what you can find on Kijiji!
Once a tray was full my 16 yo son carried it out to the drier and slid them into place.
When we finally got all six trays full it was time to fire it up and dry those puppies!
About 24 hours later those 20 lbs of cherries were reduced to 10 cups of dried cherries. YUM YUM YUM. We ran another batch through and then I bagged them up 4 cups to a freezer grade Ziploc baggie and tossed them into the box in the freezer marked FRUIT.
We also made 4 batches of cherry jam and there are still about 20 lbs. waiting to be dealt with. Pie? Syrup? Juice? fruit leather? Just freeze them???