In Season: Cherries
June is upon us and it’s prime cherry picking season! The orchards and grocery stores are loaded with abundant, varied and delicious cherries for the picking. With new varieties popping up each week but only a handful of weeks left in the short season, now its time to get your fill! Each variety has its own recipe of sweetness and tartness, and that combination can vary from week to week and farm to farm, so try some new varieties this year and be sure to stop by and pick up some freshly picked cherries from your local farmer or grocery store.
Your typical reddish cherries range in color from red to a deep mahogany and almost black. The internal characteristic is solid reddish purple. Rainier cherries are typically golden yellow in color to a red blush with an almost colorless internal flesh. All cherries are a succulent and crisp fruit with a naturally intense, sweet flavor.
Cherries prefer abundant sunshine and mild temperatures to produce firm and flavorful fruit. Their growing season is relatively short which produces a high demand and yearly anticipation.
What to Look For:
When picking cherries, try looking for clean, shiny, bright, large, firm round to heart shaped cherries. A good guide of a fresh cherry is a bright green stem. Avoid picking cherries with any blemishes, wounds or dry brownish stems.
How to Store:
It is important to store cherries in a cold refrigerator, in order to remain fresh and crisp, either in a sealed plastic bag or a roomy bowl covered lightly with a paper towel. Doing so will allow you to enjoy your cherries for up to 8 days. Leaving cherries unrefrigerated or close to windows and sun lit areas will shorten their life span and cause them to break down quicker. Cherries will absorb any scents from strong smelling foods, so be sure to avoid storing them next to any such items. Only when you are ready to eat your cherries should you rinse them under cold water.
If freezing your cherries you will want to rinse them under cold water and pat dry. Place your cherries in a single layer onto a baking sheet and freeze them until firm. Once frozen you can place them in an airtight container or bag, being sure to label them with the date you have put them in the freezer. If placing in a baggie be sure to remove as much air as possible in order to prevent any freezer burn. They should last frozen up to one year. At this point you can remove your cherries as needed.
Don’t be afraid to munch on a big bowl of cherries since they are packed with health benefits! Cherries are low in fat and calories, about 90 calories per cup, so they are easy on the waistline. Cherries are a great source of fiber, containing about 3 grams of fiber for every one cup of cherries. They are also a good source of potassium, which plays a very important role in muscle, heart, kidney and nerve cell functions and helps to maintain a balance of water levels in the body. Cherries also are high in Vitamin C, which is a valuable antioxidant and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
If you are looking for sour cherries to cook with be sure to find stems that come off easily when pulled.
If you want to pit your cherries and do not have a cherry pitter an inexpensive alternative is using an unused, standard sized paper clip. Start by rinsing your cherries under cold water and removing the stems. Take your paper clip and separate the two curved ends. You will have an “S” shape. Place the end that best fits the size of your cherry into the cherry by gently pushing through the stem end of the cherry. Once your paper clip reaches the end of the cherry pit, twist it to pop out the pit.
Beware of cherry juice when pitting or eating your cherries. The juice will stain clothing.
Frozen cherries can be substituted for fresh cherries in most recipes.
Cherries are one of the few fruits that do not continue to ripen once picked, so be sure to select cherries with the most color for sweetness.
Cherries are great used in both sweet and savory recipes.
Looking for cherry recipes? Give these a try:
*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*