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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Seasonal Snippet: About that Bowl of Cherries

Seasonal Snippet: About that Bowl of Cherries

Katy Morris

When life gives us a bowl of them, we couldn’t be cheerier.

They’re called CHERRIES because they originally hail from the ancient Turkish town of Cerasus. They’ll jazz up savory kugel, add perfect pink juiciness to granola parfaits, and on hot summer days, are best eaten straight out of hand.

Here’s everything you need to know – from tip of the stem to center of the pit – about one of our favorite stone fruits: cherries.

What’s the difference between sweet and sour cherries?

Photo: Liz Rueven, Sweet Cherries, Woodland Farm, CT
Photo: Liz Rueven, Sweet Cherries, Woodland Farm, CT

 

Though there are tons of varieties out there, the two main groups are sweet cherries and sour cherries. The former are most commonly used (and more easily found) whereas sour cherries are mostly used in cooking or soaked for making cocktails. Sour cherries are also used in savory dishes or jams whereas their sweet counterparts are perfect for traditional desserts.

 

Photo: Liz Rueven, Sour Cherries, Woodland Farm, CT
Photo: Liz Rueven, Sour Cherries, Woodland Farm, CT

When are they in season?

 

Now! June and July are the prime months to get cherries, especially here in New England (though they grow throughout the world in temperate climates). But the good news is that they preserve super well; hence you can pick your fresh cherries and enjoy them through the cold winter months.  Click here to find local farms in your area where you can go pickin’.

 

How do cherries grow?

 

This stone fruit (which are otherwise known as “drupes”) grow on small plants and can usually be seen grouped in pairs or even quadruplets on a bunch of stems. The plants are quite pretty – in fact, cherries are actually part of the rose family!

 

How should I choose the best cherries?

photo: Liz Rueven
photo: Liz Rueven

 

Our friends over at Ellsworth Farm in CT advise to choose cherries that have “bright, shiny skin with the green stem firmly attached to the top of the fruit.” Generally, they should be uniform in color but if you see ones that are uneven at your local market, don’t completely reject them. Ask the farmer or clarify the variety, as kinds like the Rainier Blush inherently are, well, “blushed” and hence not uniform in color. Also, the plumper and firmer the cherries, the better – you want to savor as much of the sweet flesh as possible!

 

Note that cherries are unique in that they do not ripen once picked, so if you want to eat them fresh and out of hand, it’s best to select cherries that are dark ruby and hence will have the sweetest flavor.

 

Best storage tips?

Photo: Liz Rueven; Yellow Cherries,Woodland Farm, CT
Photo: Liz Rueven; Yellow Cherries,Woodland Farm, CT

 

Pop unwashed cherries right in your fridge, but be careful not to squish them as they bruise easily. They are good for about a week after you buy them, but it’s always best to eat them straight away. If you want to freeze them for much later, wash and stem them, dry them completely, and then pit them before placing in a ziplock freezer bag.

 

What’s the best way to pit them?

 

This can be the annoying part of cherries, but don’t have a pit-y party and let that deter you from indulging in their juicy sweetness. There are indeed cherry-pitters out there to buy, but if you don’t already have this kitchen tool and your recipe calls for pitted whole cherries, here are a few creative ways to get the job done:

 

  • Pastry tip: Remove the stem and place the cherry on a cutting board (stem side down) over the pastry tip. Press down hard and out pops the pit!
  • Hair clip: Yes, this might sound odd, but it works. Insert the rounded edge in the top of the stemmed cherry bulb, twist it a bit and yank out the pit. Done.
  • Large Chef Knife: Warning: the juice will squirt (and stain!), but this is another simple way to pit a cherry. Smash the cherry with the side of a large knife on a cutting board and then use your fingers to split it the rest of the way to remove the pit.
  • Straw: Simply put the straw on the top of the cherry once the stem is removed and push the pit through to the other end.

 

How should I prepare and use them?

 

Photo: Liz Rueven
Photo: Liz Rueven

Just before eating, remove the stem. Then, wash them gently in cold water and dry with a paper towel. Although there’s nothing like the refreshing, sweet burst of juiciness from a fresh cherry eaten right out of your hand, cherries are super versatile and can be dried, cooked or blended, just to name a few options. Top them on some ice cream or a granola parfait, bake them in a pie, blend in a smoothie – there are so many possibilities!

 

If you want to make some jam so you can preserve the fresh cherries for later on, we recommend using sour cherries. They sweeten as they cook and retain their shape much better than sweet varieties.

 

What else should I know?

 

Cherries are not only delicious, they are super healthy. They are a “rich source of vitamins A and C, antioxidants (melatonin) and minerals (zinc, iron, potassium) according to Michael Bozzi of Ellsworth Farms.

 

Check back in on Thursday to find an irresistible recipe for Focaccia with Cherries, courtesy of John Barricelli, The SoNo Baking Company and Cafe, CT.

photo: Liz Rueven
photo: Liz Rueven

How do you like to eat/prepare your summer cherries?

We’re always hoping to give you the best info out there on seasonal ingredients – what would you like to learn more about this year? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

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