DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
One of summers great delights is sour cherries, sometimes called tart cherries. They'll be ripe and ready in just a few weeks, but unless you live in Michigan, where most are grown, you'll be hard pressed to find them. For this weekend's food moment, we decided to pay a visit to The Cherry Hut in Beulah, Michigan.
In 1922, it opened as a cherry pie shack. Today, it's a full-service restaurant, but there are still plenty of tart cherries on the menu. Brenda Case and her husband Leonard are the owners. Ms. Case joins me now from The Cherry Hut. Hi, there.
Ms. BRENDA CASE (Owner, The Cherry Hut): Hello. Thank you for inviting us.
ELLIOTT: Now, outside of Michigan, most people are only familiar with sweet cherries. So let's start by getting you to tell us about the sour cherry.
Ms. CASE: Well, the tart cherries are the red cherries that are smaller and very sour.
ELLIOTT: And these are the really bright red color.
Ms. CASE: The bright red ones, yes.
ELLIOTT: The vast majority of sour cherries grown in the U.S. are destined for cans of pie filling that we can, say, buy in our grocery store. Or they might be in commercially packaged pies that you buy in the freezer section. Now, I'm guessing I can predict your answer, but how do those pies hold up against a Cherry Hut pie?
Ms. CASE: Our Cherry Hut pies are made fresh daily. Our recipe is the same recipe from 1922, made the same way, even the piecrust is hand crimped.
ELLIOTT: How many pies do you sell a day?
Ms. CASE: Right now, it's in the season, we're selling two to three hundred, and when we get busy in July and August, we will hit over 500 pies a day, and we had our record-breaking day last summer, and that was 636 pies in one day.
ELLIOTT: Must have a lot of people making pies and crimping crust.
Ms. CASE: Actually, only three on the pie crew.
ELLIOTT: Tell me about some of the other sour cherry items on your menu.
Ms. CASE: We have many cherry items. Beginning with breakfast, we have cherry pancakes, and we have cherry topping for our waffles, and we have a delicious cherry muffin. For lunch we make a cherry chicken salad. We have a beverage called cherry-aide. Of course our dessert specialty would be our cherry pie. And on Monday nights we have a barbequed pork, and we're using our own cherry barbequed topping for that.
ELLIOTT: I understand you also make cherry burgers?
Ms. CASE: Yes. The cherry burger was actually invented about 20 miles north of here in Leelanau County, in a little town called Cedar. And Ray Pleva, the owner of the meat market there in Cedar, had a daughter in 1987 that was the National Cherry Queen, and she wanted to find a way to promote cherries and also to use the surplus cherry supply that we had that year. So her father started grinding some of the cherries and putting it into the meat, and they - because of using the ground cherries, they have 65 percent less fat than a ground beef burger.
ELLIOTT: What does it taste like?
Ms. CASE: I don't think you could tell the difference. They're just delicious.
ELLIOTT: How many pounds of cherries do you all go through at The Cherry Hut?
Ms. CASE: We use 4,000 pounds of cherries a week, and those would be the tart, sour cherries.
ELLIOTT: Brenda Case is the proprietor of The Cherry Hut in Beulah, Michigan. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
Ms. CASE: Thank you.
ELLIOTT: For The Cherry Hut's tart cherry muffin recipe, go to our website, NPR.org.
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