President's Day Pastry
One mom-and-pop bakery, one weekend, 10.6 million calories.
Every winter people line up outside Schmidt Bakery in the Indiana cold waiting for one hot-and-ugly treat: the cherry-thing-a-ling.
The fruit fritter with its secret cherry glaze is only sold during President’s Day weekend at the Batesville bakery in honor of George Washington’s fabled cherry tree. And it sells big. Last year, the owners made and sold 32,000 thing-a-lings in three days. That’s equivalent to approximately 10.6 million calories. This year, Clem and Bertie Schmidt, 72 and 67 respectively, say they hope to top 40,000.
Occasionally, people say the thing-a-lings look like chicken wings, but don’t let the looks fool you. The ugliness is key to the taste.
“Well, my daughters say the uglier they are, the better they taste,” Clem says. “The cherries burn black when you fry them, but they’re still sweet.”
Thirty-eight years ago, Schmidt decided to create thing-a-lings after seeing an ad for donut mix. The first year they sold 140 dozen. After publicity from The Cincinnati Enquirer and area TV stations, the number jumped to 1,500 dozen.
Clem says one TV reporter happened upon the thing-a-lings one day and bought some to take back to the station. But before she could feature them on air, her husband ate them all. She broadcast the story anyway.
To be sure they have enough thing-a-lings to keep customers happy, Schmidt and the other bakers make them all night and into the afternoon the next day. The bakery buys cherries months in advance to get better prices and freezes them. Last year, they went through 2,100 pounds of cherries and 1,900 pounds of shortening.
“We fry them all day long so people get them when they’re hot,” Bertie says.
About 25 friends and family members come in to help. Clem and Bertie’s daughters show up, including their oldest, Kim, who flies in from California for the weekend. The grandkids join in, too, rolling out dough and scattering cherries.
Customer Sally Raver loves the taste and the hype of the thing-a-lings. She sends a box to her daughter in Iowa every year and freezes two or three dozen herself. “They still taste good after even six months,” she says.
Mark your calendars: This year’s Cherry-Thing-A-Ling extravaganza is February 13-16 from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. Expect to pay $1.20 for each fritter and don’t forget to ask for a tour of how they’re made. If you miss the thing-a-lings, stop by any day Monday through Saturday for their fresh donuts, homemade bread and award-winning brownies.