LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This summer we've been bringing you stories of regional candies found across America. Now, we're taking you to the Northwest for a taste that makes summer last all-year long. The Northwest News Network's Anna King introduces us to Eastern Washington's Chukar Cherries.
ANNA KING, BYLINE: Over the course of just a few sun-soaked weeks every summer, Chukar Cherries dries 250,000 pounds of fresh cherries.
J.T. MONTGOMERY: It's almost like going into your mom's kitchen and she's just taken a cherry pie out of the oven. A little bit like that.
KING: That's J.T. Montgomery, one of the owners of the candy company. The dried fruit goes in to a lot of its products. The most popular: Chewy semi-dried cherries rolled in oval nuggets of chocolate. Don't mistake Chukar Cherries for those syrupy chocolate-cherry candies that people hand out for Valentine's Day. Think chocolate raisins, but a lot richer.
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KING: After the drying process, Eva Moreno scrapes the sticky treats off stainless trays.
No snacking allowed, Eva?
EVA MORENO: No snacking allowed.
MORENO: Even though they look delicious.
KING: Next, Montgomery leads us to a set of double doors.
MONTGOMERY: OK, we are about to enter the chocolate room.
KING: Oh, my gosh. It smells really good in here.
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MONTGOMERY: The process that you're watching here is called panning. It basically what the - panning is an old-world chocolate process.
KING: Imagine a copper kettle turned on its side, spinning around like a concrete mixer.
MONTGOMERY: Each new layer of chocolate adheres to the previous layer and they get, you know, it just builds up...
KING: Like a pearl.
MONTGOMERY: Exactly, it's just exactly like a pearl. Yeah.
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KING: You can order online, but Chukar Cherries' tasting room is the real experience.
ANITA QUINN: Which one is this?
KING: Anita Quinn is a high school teacher and regular Chukar Cherries customer.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is the cabernet.
QUINN: Oh, the cabernet. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's a tart cherry with dark chocolate.
KING: Quinn pops the sample into her mouth.
QUINN: Oh, well, how can you beat dark chocolate and a cherry? You have that sweet taste and then it's a little tart, and it just goes together.
KING: For Quinn, Chukar Cherries capture the taste of Central Washington.
QUINN: I can always remember my mom could always hardly wait to get cherries from here, the fresh ones. But then when they started doing this it's like you can have them all year.
KING: Which means summer can linger, even in those dark winter months here in the Northwest.
For NPR News, I'm Anna King in Richland in Washington.
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