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Cherry Yum Yum Recipe: From the Dairy Farm to the Table

Cattlemen as guests meant several things at our house. We would eat in the dining room. We would probably eat steak on our brown glazed dinnerware reserved especially for that meal. And after the dinner plates were cleared, Mama would slice and serve her favorite dessert while telling the story behind it. That always led to my parents’ stories of their “Arkansas boys.”

By the time I was born, my father was a Professor of Animal Science at LSU. When I was four, we moved thirty miles north to a beautiful small farm in East Feliciana parish, where we raised beef cattle as part of our small cow-calf commercial operation. My father successfully put what he taught into practice so we often had cattlemen from around the world as guests at our farm. Years before that, though, in 1960, my father took his first teaching job at what was then called Southern State College and is now Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Arkansas.

At Southern State, my father managed the dairy farm and taught, but the stories I grew up with from those days centered around his work as coach of the livestock judging team. At a livestock judging contest, team members study a group of animals. Then, they have to place them, and prepare and explain their reasons to support the places they assigned. A knowledge of livestock and public speaking skills are necessary for a good show at a contest. During those years, my father worked with wonderful students. Many of them worked with my father at the school dairy and my mother fed them quite often. Some of them were the first from their families to attend college and some of them came from humble circumstances. They would go on to become successful as family men, professors, lawyers, and businessmen.

Toward the end of my father’s career, he developed a new degree program with the top executives in the poultry industry. Two of his Arkansas boys were among those with whom he worked. Mama and Daddy would tell the story of one of the boys who had to be coaxed to step onto an escalator in Kansas City because he had never seen one before. Years later, my parents received a postcard from Africa, where the latest duties of his job had taken him.

The travel budget back then was limited, so the team only entered the major contests, with the best teams in the nation. When my father applied the first time, they were initially denied admission because the organizers had never heard of the school. Fortunately a professor from LSU was near-by and told them the team was okay because he knew my father. When they won the contest and beat the big agriculture universities, one of the boys proclaimed, “They didn’t know who Southern State was when we came, but they do now.

If I was lazy, I might be reminded of those hard-working boys. If I was acting spoiled, I might be told the story of one of the boys who couldn’t even afford movie tickets because his parents were sacrificing so much just to send them to college. If I got discouraged that I couldn’t accomplish something, I heard again the example of the underdog team from Magnolia who beat the big boys through hard work and determination

I loved hearing the stories of these small-town boys who lived large in my imagination. I am typing this story right now as I sit at the table one of those Arkansas boys made for my parents. When my parents died, the table was one of the items I wanted to keep and preserve because it was an item that had always prompted fond memories and stories. I looked forward to visiting cattleman because I knew the stories would flow from my parents’ memories as the dessert dishes were passed around. Mama would customize the entrees and sides to our guests as much as she was able, but the dessert was almost always the same: Cherry Yum Yum. On one of the Southern State judging team’s trips, they ate a cherry dessert that they all loved. Daddy described it to Mama and she tried many versions until he said it was exactly what they had enjoyed.

Food and memories, stirred and served up together, just as they should be. Enjoy my mama’s delicious recipe as you share it with family and friends. It’s a perfect southern dessert for warmer weather since it delivers the flavors of cheesecake in a form that is light and fluffy. It can be made ahead and it slices beautifully. I’ve included the original recipe with topping mix and canned pie filling, along with optional directions for making it with fresh whipped cream and homemade cherry pie filling.

Do not substitute whipped topping in a tub for the topping mix or whipped cream, as it does not hold up well in this dessert. You can buy cracker crumbs but they taste better to me when I crush graham crackers myself. I prefer to place them in a large zippered bag and use a rolling pin to crush them, in two batches. This may also be done in a food processor, but the resulting crumbs are usually too fine for this dessert.

 

Mrs. Louise’s Cherry Yum Yum
Ingredients:
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 sticks butter, melted
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 envelopes Dream Whip brand dessert topping mix (usually found in a box alongside the marshmallows and gelatin on the baking aisle)
1 cup half and half
2 cans cherry pie filling

Directions:

  • Combine cracker crumbs and margarine. Line 13 x 9-inch dish with HALF of this mixture; press firmly into place in the bottom of the pan and up the sides, using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a measuring cup. Do NOT bake.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, blend cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  • With a mixer, whip topping mix with half and half until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into cream cheese mixture.
  • Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture over cracker crumb “crust” and top with both cans of pie filling.
  • Add remaining cream cheese mixture and spread over pie filling. Top with remaining crumbs.
  • Refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours.
  • Approximately 16 servings

Cherry Yum-Yum Optional Recipe
Ingredients:
2 cans pitted tart cherries
1 cup reserved cherry liquid
1 ½ cups sugar, divided (see Directions)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
Optional: ¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract and 3 to 4 drops red food color
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 sticks butter, melted
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

  • Drain cherries well in a large strainer over a bowl. Reserve 1 cup liquid.
  • Combine ¾ cup of sugar, cornstarch and salt in medium saucepan. Whisk in reserved 1 cup cherry liquid. Cook and stir on medium heat 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture thickens to consistency of canned pie filling. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in cherries, remaining ¾ cup sugar, butter and optional ingredients if desired. Refrigerate pie filling 1 hour.
  • Combine cracker crumbs and margarine. Line 13 x 9 dish with HALF of this mixture; press firmly into place in the bottom of the pan and up the sides, using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a measuring cup. Do NOT bake.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, blend cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  • Using a mixer, beat whipping cream and 4 tablespoons sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form. Do not over-mix! Check for peaks periodically by removing the beater and pressing into the cream and pulling up to see if it forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the finished whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
  • Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture over cracker crumb “crust” and top with the cherry pie filling.
  • Add remaining cream cheese mixture and gently spread over pie filling. Top with remaining crumbs, crumbling them over the top.
  • Refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours.

Approximately 16 servings


For more great recipes and info about Terri Duhon, visit her website thepiebelle.com

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