You know the great thing about the Fourth of July falling in the middle of the week? Sure, it screws up the three and four-day weekends, but it also stretches the festivities across two weekends instead of one. Flags appear, cherry pies get baked and the fireworks begin. The first two icons are easy to understand, but when did fireworks become part of the celebration?
From the very beginning, thanks to John Adams.
The drive to market from the farm is my time to listen to audiobooks. Last year I went through a founding fathers phase queuing up biographies of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and a slew of similar works. After all, they too were farmers.
In Joseph J. Ellis’ book First Family: John and Abigail Adams, there were excerpts of a letter Adams had written to his wife on July 3, 1776 detailing his vision for marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence the following day. He told Abigail that the occasion should be “commemorated with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” The weight of Adam’s words carried far beyond his personal letters and the very first public Independence Day celebrations were held in Philadelphia and Boston on July 4, 1777 with large fireworks displays. The tradition continues…
As for the cherry pie, walk through Central Farm Markets and you’ll find cherries galore right now. How fortuitous that cherry (and berry) season occurs during the first week in July. We can thank the Dutch for importing cherry trees to New York (when the region was under the sovereignty of the Netherlands) in 1689.
There are assorted shades of the stone fruit which basically fall into two categories: sweet and sour.
Today, we think of cherries as fruit for eating, but in colonial times each type of cherry had a purpose. Sour cherries were a favored remedy for gout as they lower uric acid levels in the blood. Added to brandy, sour cherries served as an antiviral, antibacterial and to reduce muscle and joint pain. Sweet cherries are high in the antioxidant melatonin that has a calming effect on the central nervous system, alleviating insomnia, headaches and irritability. I can attest that a bowl of fresh sweet cherries and Blue Ridge Dairy Greek Yogurt can quickly cure a bad case of grumpiness due to oppressive heat.
This year my go-to recipe for cherries has been Spiced Brandied Cherries. They store well in the refrigerator or can be canned. A spoonful is perfect over ice cream for a quick and easy delicious summer treat. Old Fashioned anyone?
Brandied Spiced Cherries
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cloves
- 2-3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- 2 allspice berries
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 quart cherries, pitted and stemmed
- 1 cup brandy
Combine spices and sugar in a sauce pan with ½ cup water. Simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add cherries and brandy to the mixture. Store in jars in refrigerator.