The madness is happening again. It’s cherry thing-a-ling time – the one weekend a year that it happens. Starting today, customers will snake out the door at a little German bakery in Batesville, Indiana – Schmidt’s – and get their once-a-year fix of the delectable cherry pastry. The bakery makes them by the tens of thousands one weekend a year – President’s Day weekend. Now late February pastry is dominated by paczki donuts and king cakes leading up to Mardi Gras and Lent. But President’s day? It’s not a holiday typically thought of as a food holiday.
But the deep fried cherry fritter is based on the legend of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. He could not tell a lie – or as we call them today,’ alternative facts’ – and admitted to his father that he had done the deed. The pastry is a part donut, part fritter – covered in a rich cherry glaze and bits of chopped cherry. Think of the standard apple fritter, only cherry flavored.
I just found out about this cult of cherry pastry only last year, from a cousin on the West Side. Apparently the knowledge doesn’t travel much further east than Glenway Avenue or I-75. So I will be one of the mass of Cincinnatians making an early morning pilgrimage on Saturday morning. Schmidt’s also happen to be one of the only bakeries in the Greater Tri-state region that still makes salt rising bread. What a treat – two delicacies in one trip!
They’ve made over 30,000 of them in years past over President’s day weekend. And although they haven’t been making them since colonial days, they’ve been making them about 50 years. The bakery itself opened in 1963 and originally sold more pizzas than pastry. Then, after moving to a new location in 1970, they sold the pizza portion of their business and focused on the sweets. It’s located right off I-74 in the Batesville Shopping Village. Clem and Bertie are the owners, but Clem is largely retired.
His crew of 15 has been making the cherry thing-a-lings since yesterday. A shipment has already gone off before sunrise this morning to local Channel 12, to let the public know it’s time again. And come Monday, if you haven’t gotten your allotment of the delicacy, you’ll have to wait again until next year.