Cherry picking at Seaquist Orchard | Living the Country Life

Cherry picking at Seaquist Orchard

A generations-old Wisconsin farm celebrates the pie-ready cherry and shares fresh ways to enjoy this summertime favorite.
  • Continued traditions

    Sour cherries are a favorite crop in Door County, Wisconsin, where cherry trees have been planted since the late 1800s. At one time, about 10,000 acres of cherry orchards stretched along the farm roads that crisscross the county. The area is no longer the largest producer of pie cherries in the United States (Michigan stole the title), but cherry farming is still a big part of county family traditions.

    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • A family function

    Dale Seaquist’s earliest memories are of picking cherries in his dad’s orchards. He is the grandson of a cherry farmer and his grandchildren are in the business with him today. The family works about 1,000 acres of orchards and their lively summer market attracts streams of tourists and a steady local clientele of pie aficionados.

    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • Delicate blossoms

    Most cherries in the orchards are French Montmorency, the classic sour pie cherry. The trees are exceptionally cold-hardy, but late spring is the most critical time: A hard frost when the blossoms open can ruin the year’s harvest. “You’re dependent on Mother Nature,” Dale says, “and she’s not very dependable.” A good crop can normally be counted on in Lake Michigan-surrounded Door County, where proximity to water stabilizes temperatures.

    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • Hand-picked cherries

    About two months after the trees bloom, the cherries are ripe and picking cannot be neglected. In the old days, cherries were picked by hand, and workers came up to Door County every year to help with the harvest. An experienced hand could pick up to 100 8- to 10-pound pails of cherries a day, says Kristin Seaquist, Dale’s wife, who remembers picking cherries as a child alongside the workers on her grandfather’s farm.

    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • Cherry queen

    Nowadays, Kristin isn’t out in the orchards much. Instead, she’s in the market, making pies. Kristin and her daughter, Laura, a former Wisconsin state cherry queen, run the market’s busy bakery, where in a single day the pie crew might make 2,000 pies.

    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • Try not to smile

    Once you’ve satisfied your craving for pie, there are dozens of other ways to put cherries on the menu, says Janice Thomas, owner of Savory Spoon Cooking School, which is a cherry-pit-spitting distance from the Seaquists’ market. She teaches “Very Cherry” classes in cherry season, instructing summer visitors and locals how to use cherries in salads, sauces, salsas, drinks, and, of course, desserts. “Certain things in life make people smile, and it’s really hard to look at a cherry pie and not smile,” Janice says. Fingers stained bright red from pitting cherries are just part of the fun.

    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • Pie cherries

    Interested in growing cherries on your acreage? Here’s what you need to know to plant and care for a cherry orchard.

    Botanical Name: Prunus cerasus
    Cultivars: Montmorency is the most widely grown sour cherry, but specialist growers and mail-order nurseries also offer ‘North Star’, ‘Morello’, ‘Balaton’, and ‘Surecrop’. Before you buy a tree, check with your state’s extension service for recommendations for your area.

    Hardiness: Zones 4–8. Cherry trees do best where summers are not too hot.

    Planting: Plant cherry trees in sunny spots in well-drained soil. Choose a protected area and do not plant in low frost pockets, where a quick cold snap might damage buds in spring.

    Pollination: Sour cherries are self-pollinating. One tree is all you need to grow pie cherries.

    Pruning: All cultivars are grown on grafted rootstock and they generally do not grow very tall. Prune lightly once a year in late winter or early spring.

    Harvesting: Cherries ripen over a period of about two weeks. To keep birds from beating you to your crop, you need to put up bird netting. (You only have to hang it over the tree for a short time.) In cherry orchards, a single sour cherry tree produces up to 7,000 cherries, or enough for up to two dozen cherry pies. Don’t worry if your production levels are smaller—a healthy tree growing in the right spot will still give you a bounty of cherries. You can expect to harvest cherries from your tree for up to 20 years.

    Continue through to see three cherry recipes to try.


    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • Star Anise Sweet-and-Sour Pickled Cherries

    PREP 20 minutes 

    REFRIGERATE 72 hours

    NUMBER OF SERVINGS 48 (4 pints)

    2 lb. fresh red tart cherries (with pits)
    20 black peppercorns, crushed
    4 whole star anise
    4 bay leaves
    2 cups white wine vinegar
    2 cups sugar
    1⅓ cups water

    1. Wash cherries and lay them on a clean dry towel. Using a clean pushpin, prick each cherry two or three times to help it absorb pickling liquid. Divide peppercorns and star anise among four clean pint canning jars. Add the cherries. Tuck one bay leaf into each jar.

    2. In a small saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, and the water; bring to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour hot liquid over cherries in jars (there may be some extra liquid); add lids. Let cool. Refrigerate 3 days or up to 6 months.

    3. Serve cherries with a charcuterie platter or pâté.

    PER SERVING 45 cal., 0 g total fat (0 g sat. fat), 0 mg chol., 1 mg sodium, 11 g carb., 0 g fiber, 10 g sugars, 0 g pro.


    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • Cherry Tarts with Almonds and Honey

    PREP 20 minutes 

    CHILL 1 hour 

    COOL 2 hours

    BAKE 20 minutes at 375°F + 25 minutes at 350°F


    2 eggs
    2 Tbsp. heavy cream
    ½ tsp. vanilla extract
    10 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
    1½ cups all-purpose flour
    ¾ cup powdered sugar
    ¼ tsp. salt
    1 cup blanched almonds
    ½ cup granulated sugar
    ⅛ tsp. salt
    2 Tbsp. honey
    ½ tsp. almond extract
    ½ tsp. vanilla extract
    6 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
    ¾ cup pitted cherries, drained (fresh, or
    frozen and thawed)
    ¼ cup apple jelly
    2 Tbsp. honey

    1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Separate one of the eggs. In a small bowl whisk together the yolk, heavy cream, and ½ tsp. vanilla. Place the butter pieces in a food processor; pulse five times. Add cream mixture; pulse six times. In a small bowl stir together flour, powdered sugar, and the ¼ tsp. salt. Add flour mixture to food processor; pulse eight to 10 times or just until dough starts to come together. Form dough into eight small disks; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

    2. Using eight 4- to 4 ¾-inch tart pans, place a dough disk into each pan. Press dough evenly over bottom and up sides of pans. Line each pastry with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake about 20 minutes or until pastry just starts to brown. Let cool at least 40 minutes.

    3. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. In the food processor combine almonds, granulated sugar, and the 1/8 tsp. salt; pulse until finely ground. Add the whole egg, egg white, 2 Tbsp. honey, almond extract, and ½ tsp. vanilla; pulse seven times. Add the 6 Tbsp. butter and process until smooth. Spread almond mixture over each cooled pastry; top with cherries. Set filled tart shells on a baking sheet for easier handling.

    4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until tops are golden brown and set, rotating the baking sheet once during baking. Transfer tarts to a wire rack and cool completely.

    5. For glaze, in a small saucepan stir together jelly and 2 Tbsp. honey. Bring to boiling; remove from heat. Brush glaze over cooled tarts.

    PER SERVING 589 cal., 35 g total fat (17 g sat. fat), 112 mg chol., 319 mg sodium,
    63 g carb., 3 g fiber, 40 g sugars, 8 g pro.


    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie
  • White Chocolate and Dried Cherry Scones

    PREP 20 minutes 

    BAKE 12 minutes

    COOL 3 minutes


    2 cups all-purpose flour
    ¼ cup sugar
    2 tsp. baking powder
    ⅛ tsp. salt
    ⅓ cup chilled unsalted butter
    ½ cup dried cherries, chopped*
    ½ cup white chocolate chunks or
    white chocolate chips
    ½ cup heavy cream
    1 egg
    1½ tsp. vanilla
    3 Tbsp. heavy cream
    3 Tbsp. raw sugar

    1. Preheat oven to 400°F (convection) or 425°F (standard). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. In a bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut chilled butter into small pieces. Add butter to flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until pieces are the size of very small peas. Stir in chopped cherries and white chocolate.

    3. In a small bowl whisk together the ½ cup cream, the egg, and vanilla. Add cream mixture to flour mixture; mix just until blended. Do not overmix.

    4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Pat dough until ½ inch thick. Cut dough using a 2½-inch biscuit or cookie cutter.

    5. Place cutouts on prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush tops of cutouts with the 3 Tbsp. cream and sprinkle with raw sugar.

    6. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool 3 minutes. Serve warm.

    *TIP Toss cherries with ½ tsp. flour to make them easier to chop.

    TO MAKE AHEAD Place unbaked cutouts in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Freeze up to 3 months. Do not thaw before baking. Bake frozen cutouts 20 to 22 minutes or until golden.

    PER SERVING 263 cal., 13 g total fat (8 g sat. fat), 46 mg chol., 123 mg sodium, 33 g carb.,
    1 g fiber, 16 g sugars, 4 g pro.


    Date Published: April 23, 2019
    Date Updated: April 24, 2019
    Tags: sour, cherries, pie

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