At a certain age, popping cherries takes on a different meaning for women, especially in Wisconsin, where it’s highly preferred to popping pills for natural health benefits. The tart Montmorency cherries harvested and celebrated each summer in Door County ooze with superfood properties such as antioxidants, anthocyanins (anti-inflammation agents), melatonin, potassium, and pain relievers.
They are said to be effective in preventing or treating gout, cramps, fibromyalgia, insomnia, arthritis, fatigue, muscle soreness, and heart conditions. Come summer, they brighten the Wisconsin landscape with Christmas-red cheer and inspire creativity in
Stop first at Country Ovens, which takes full advantage of cherries’ benefits. Just outside Sturgeon Bay — the “threshold,” so to speak, to the Door County peninsula — the company has been selling Cherry De-Lite dried cherries since 1987. It eventually added dark chocolate-covered dried cherries, cherry salsa, cherry mustard, cherry jam, and myriad other cherry products to its repertoire.
As cherries’ healthful benefits were discovered, Country Ovens found a use for the discarded by-product of their dried cherry production when they began selling the juice, both au naturel and sweetened.
In more recent years, a partnership with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) resulted in a product called Rapid Red, which college and professional sports teams drink to relieve stiffness and pain. The product grew a step more beneficial when Country Ovens added another Wisconsin food by-product—namely the whey from its cheese—to the mix and developed Rapid Whey, a protein-rich spin-off.
After a few days driving around the farmlands and charming towns of Door County, cherries naturally become a part of your diet in ways you’ve never dreamed. Enough, almost, to induce a melatonin coma.
Restaurants serve them in such wonderful creations as baked oatmeal with cinnamon and cherries, filet mignon with cherry sauce, cherry risotto, creamed corn with cherries, cherry ice cream, cherry crisp, and of course, cherry pie. Oh, the cherry pie!
In Fish Creek, White Gull Inn’s egg bread French toast stuffed with cherries and cream cheese won the Best Breakfast in America Challenge on TV’s Good Morning America in 2010. You won’t wonder why.
At Island Orchard Cider in Ellison Bay, sample apple-cherry hard cider fermented according to the French process, which is appropriate given that Montmorency cherries came from France.
Drink cherry margaritas at Fred & Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar & Grill lakeside in Sister Bay. Sip cherry wine at Orchard Country Winery & Market in Fish Creek, then try your luck at the Cherry Pit Spit track (a little wine always helps). If you arrive in harvest season (generally mid-July to mid-August) you can even pick your own bucket of fresh cherries right off the trees here and savor the summer, just-plucked warmth of their slightly sour pulp.
Seaquist Orchards in Sister Bay, the region’s main producer of cherries, sells everything from cherry barbecue sauce to homemade cherry fudge in its gift shop. Sign up for a cooking class at Savory Spoon in Ellison Bay, and you might learn how to make arugula salad with cherry vinaigrette and cherrywood-cured bacon, or kirsch flambéed cherry crepes.
Cherry chipotle cheddar cheese, cherry streusel, cherry nut bread, a brandy tipple known as Cherry Bounce, chicken cherry bruschetta, cherry granola: the list of inventive uses for cherries goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what age you are, popping cherries in Door County is bound to make you feel good.
WHEN YOU GO
Where to Eat
Fred & Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar & Grill, 920-854-6699. Lunch and dinner entrees $8-$14.
White Gull Inn, 888-364-9542. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and traditional Door County fish boils. Dinner entrees $17-$27
Where to Stay
Pheasant Park Resort, 800-392-2921. Waterfront and modern, this is one of Door County’s largest properties. Two- and three-bedroom accommodations start at $239 during cherry season.
White Gull Inn, 888-364-9542. Historic rooms, cottages, and houses accommodate guests with individual style and charm. Full breakfast is included in rates that start at $185.
Door County Visitor Bureau, 920-227-2156, 800-52-RELAX
Country Ovens, 920-856-6767, 800-544-1003
Island Orchard Cider, 920-854-3344
Orchard Country Winery and Market, 920-868-3479, 866-946-3263
Savory Spoon Cooking School, 920-854-6600
Seaquist Orchards, 920-854-4199, 800-SEA-8850
Disclaimer: Chelle researched this story on a press trip.