Monthly Archives: June 2011

Cherry Picking Time at Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia

It’s cherry-picking time in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, a great time to drop in at Levering Orchard. The baked goods you’ll make with the cherries you don’t eat during the drive home will be fantastic.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

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More than 150 tall wooden ladders let pickers reach cherries at Levering Orchard.

The first time I met Levering Orchard owner Frank Levering, he spoke eloquently about ladders.

“I love ladders,” he mused, a muddy boot perched on a low rung and a weathered hand gripping a little higher on one of the more than 150 tall wooden ladders he uses to reach fruit at his popular you-pick operation in western Virginia. “I guess any worker gets attached to the tools of his trade. I take good care of the ladders and they take good care of me. Ladders are like bridges between the ground and the sky. They’re physical links between me and the fruit.”

Frank has a special affinity for ladders.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Frank, who grew up in this scenic orchard just off the Blue Ridge Parkway where his parents and grandparents before him also tended the fruit as far back as 1908, is a poet and writer as well. As a younger man he took screenplay-writing ambitions to Hollywood and met moderate success. Even now that he’s been back home for nearly three decades and is well ensconced as an orchardist, he sometimes writes plays during the winter off-season and in late summer produces shows at a little outdoor stage on the steeply sloped property.

I filled these buckets in about a half hour.

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RECIPE Cherry Crisp from Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia

It’s a fact: Baking with cherries you picked yourself makes them taste better. Harvest some at this western Virginia orchard, and you’ll understand.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Click here to see a separate post about Cherry Picking Time at Levering Orchard

Click here to see a separate post with a recipe for Cherry Pie from Levering Orchard

Cherry Crisp

This recipe for Cherry Crisp went over very well at my house. My family quickly finished off the initial batch and clamored for more. I’d brought back plenty of cherries from my visit to the you-pick operation at Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia—more than we were likely to eat as raw snacks before they began to rot—so I gladly started in making a double batch. The second time around I had enough to satisfy the home front and share some with a neighbor.

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RECIPE Cherry Pie from Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia

With delicious cherries in season, I head to Levering Orchard in western Virginia for pick-your-own fruit, a lovely outing in a beautiful setting, and cherry recipes to bake when I get home.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Click here to see a separate post about Cherry Picking Time at Levering Orchard

Click here to see a separate post with a recipe for Cherry Crisp from Levering Orchard

A day before I made this pie, the tart cherries I picked for it were still hanging on trees.

I picked the cherries that went into the pie I’m eating as I write this. There’s a sense of accomplishment—and a certain smug pleasure—in this fact. Besides reveling in buckets full of fresh cherries to snack on raw and to bake into various treats, I also have fresh memories of spending a lovely day in a century-old orchard perched on a verdant slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains just off the road-trip-worthy Blue Ridge Parkway.

Ready for picking

At Levering Orchard in western Virginia, the southernmost cherry orchard in the eastern United States, people can drive up, borrow plastic pales, climb wooden ladders already placed in ripe locations, and harvest as much fruit as they want (paying $2.49 per pound as they leave). Red and purple fingers belie the effort, and red and purple tongues offer evidence that sampling while picking is not only common but also encouraged.

A sweet slice of homemade cherry pie, loaded with fruit as well as memories of a fine day of cherry picking.

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Sweet Auburn Bread Company, Atlanta, GA

“People are always happy when they come into a bakery,” says Sonya Jones, explaining why she loves being a baker.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Sweet Auburn Bread Company owner Sonya Jones experiments with peach pies during a creative diversion from her usual focus of baking treats made from sweet potatoes.

The day I visit Atlanta’s queen of sweet potato baked goods, she’s up to her elbows not in sweet potatoes but…peaches. “I’m getting ready to do a baking demonstration focused on peaches at AmericasMart,” says Sonya Jones, owner of Sweet Auburn Bread Company in downtown Atlanta. “They’re in season right now, so I’m trying out all kinds of recipes.”

Peach cobbler, peach muffins, peach bread, peach ice cream, peach jelly-cake (a confection involving peach jam spread between cake layers), and other peachy goods fill the tiny workspace, with crates of fresh peaches still waiting to be converted into showpiece treats.

Luckily for me, Sonya is in tasting mode, so I get to try a little of everything. “Nice peach muffin,” I say between bites, “but really I came to hear more about your sweet potato goodies.”

“No problem,” she replies, breaking out her signature happy grin and leading me to a mixer slowly stirring a bright orange mush. “I have plenty of those in the works too.”

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Open House at Artisan Bakeries

Loaves at Artisan Baking Company, Fort Worth, Texas

Taste exceptional breads and show your support for artisan bakers during this widespread June 25 event.

by Bakery Boy

If you enjoy fresh-from-the-oven breads—crusty, aromatic, well-fermented, and hearth-baked by bakers who care dearly about making perfect loaves—then mark June 25 as a high holiday on your calendar.

The International Bakery Open House is one of many Breadville USA events planned this year by the Bread Bakers Guild of America

That’s the day the Bread Bakers Guild of America—an organization that fervently supports the artisan baking community everywhere—presents a massive International Bakery Open House involving 55 bakeries in 26 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and Ireland.

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Bob Dylan Baking Songs

Bob Dylan turned 70 and my Bakery Boy Blog turned 1 the same week recently. I’m a big fan of both Bob and baking, so for me his lyrical references to baking or baked goods or even basic ingredients commonly used in baking always stand out. Okay, so these aren’t songs actually about baking, just songs with key words that, for me at least, invariably trigger thoughts about baking, my favorite subject. Here are a few tasty Dylan lines, listed alongside the albums on which they first appeared. If you know of others, please tell me (leave a comment) so I can include them on a mix CD I’m pulling together to listen to when I travel to visit more bakeries.

Bakery Boy

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Well, it’s sugar for sugar/ And salt for salt/ If you go down in the flood/ It’s gonna be your own fault

– from Crash on the Levee (Down In The Flood) (Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, 1971)

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Why wait any longer for the world to begin/ You can have your cake and eat it too/ Why wait any longer for the one you love/ When he’s standing in front of you

– from Lay, Lady, Lay (Nashville Skyline, 1969)

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She’s a junkyard angel and she always gives me bread/ Well, if I go down dyin’, you know she bound to put a blanket on my bed

– from From A Buick 6 (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)

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Sold my guitar to the baker’s son/ For a few crumbs and a place to hide/ But I can get another one/ And I’ll play for Magdalena as we ride

– from Romance in Durango (Desire, 1976)

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