Who wouldn’t love cherries? Aside from being really sweet and tasty, this fresh fruit that’s perfect for summer is very nutritious and versatile as well. You could eat it raw, cook it, or bake with. It doesn’t matter whether they’re fresh, dried, or canned. Their sweet flavor makes them the ideal ingredient for jellies and pies.
Types of Summer Cherries
- Bing- One of the most popular varieties. They’re usually deep red-purple, firm, juicy, with an intense sweet flavor.
- Lambert- They’re dark red and are smaller than Bing cherries. You can easily identify them because of their noticeable heart shape.
- Rainier- They have a shiny pink-blushed and yellow skin. Likewise, the fruit of this cherry is white, and the juice is colorless. Unlike the other two, they have a delicate sweet flavor.
Selection and Storage
- Opt for cherries that have firm and glossy skin.
- There shouldn’t be any blemishes on the fruit.
- T hey should have a darker tinge and feel hard.
- A good indicator that a cherry is fresh would be the stems. Always look for cherries with bright green stems.
- Avoid cherries with stale and dry stems, bruises, and cuts.
- Stemmed cherries are less expensive. However, it also has a shorter shelf life compared to cherries with intact stems.
At a room temperature:
- At a room temperature, cherries could be kept for a very short time. Cherries would only be good for up to 2 days.
- If the cherries are going to be eaten from a bowl left at a room temperature, always wash and dry the cherries first.
Inside the fridge:
- When being placed inside a refrigerator, keep the cherries in a plastic bag. This will make the cherries stay fresh for 3-5 days, or even up to 2 weeks.
- If you have a lot of cherries, instead of placing them all in a huge bag, split them into smaller portions to prevent bruising.
- Never wash the cherries before placing them in the fridge. Washing triggers deterioration.
- Wash the cherries and remove any debris and grime.
- Dry the cherries completely and cover a baking tray with baking paper.
- The cherries should be arranged in the baking tray and placed in the freezer.
- Once frozen, remove the cherries and transfer it into the storage bags. Make sure to squeeze as much air out– to avoid freezer burn.
- Don’t forget to date and label the bags. Then, return them to the freezer.
Note: frozen cherries can be kept for up to a year.
Other Storage Tips:
- Avoid Exposure to Water – Cherries absorb water through their skins, and this causes deterioration. That’s why cherries should only be washed when they’re ready to be consumed.
- Avoid Exposure to Odors – Cherries could also absorb odors through their skins, which could result to an off-putting taste at a time. It’s advisable to store them away from strong smelling foods like garlic and raw onions. If this can’t be avoided, make sure that those foods are in an airtight container.
- Leave the Stems On – As much as possible, leave the stems on until you’re ready to eat them. This will help the cherries to stay fresh longer. The reason behind is, it keeps the cherries sealed and once the stem is removed, it leaves a hole on top. The hole allows moisture, air, and odor to get inside the cherries which could result in a shorter shelf life.
Cherries should be washed thoroughly. However, if you’re not eating them off the stem and you’re going to use them for cooking or baking, you should pit the cherries. A lot of people use cherry pitters, a tool used for pitting cherries, but if you don’t own one it’s still possible to pit the cherries. Here are the steps:
- Rinse the cherries with cool water, pat them dry, and remove the stems.
- With a toothpick, orange stick, or un-bent paper clip, insert it into the stem-end of the cherry until you hit the pit.
- Twist your improvised pitter around the pit and pop it out.
- Discard the pit, and repeat the process on other cherries.
Note: It could take a few cherries to get accustomed to pitting. Be patient and experiment with the twisting motion that works best for you. Don’t worry if the first few cherries turn out to be a mess. It wouldn’t affect its taste.
Fresh cherries are usually eaten raw. However, cooking them could soften and mellow the flavor. If you want sour cherries to sweeten, cook them with sugar to attain the desired sweetness. Furthermore, the most common uses for cooked cherries are as a cherry topping for ice cream or cake, and/or a cherry pie filling.
How to cook cherries:
- Rinse the cherries and pit them.
- Combine sugar, cinnamon, and canning starch in a large saucepan.
- Don’t forget to add water and almond extract.
- It should be cooked over medium high heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Likewise, the liquid should also have a thick and syrupy consistency.
- Add a tbsp of lemon juice and let the mixture boil for one minute with occasional stirring to prevent it from sticking on the bottom of the sauce pan.
- Remove the saucepan from the burner and let it cool.
- You could make a richer pie filling if you’ll use the cherry juice instead of water.
- For your ice cream sauce to be more runny, cut back on the starch.
Aside from the more traditional jams and pie fillings, there are other ways on how you can enjoy your cherries.
- Dried- This could be used for breads, puddings, and cookies – This could be done with the use of a food dehydrator or an oven. If you’re planning to use an oven, place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and bake them for 6-10 hours at 140 degrees. They should look like raisins when done.
- Salad Fixings – It doesn’t matter if your cherries are sweet or sour. Both are perfect for a fresh green salad.
- Cherry Vinegar – According to Weight Watcher’s online cherry guide, by just adding a cup of dried cherries into two cups of vinegar, you could come up with a cherry vinegar. The process is quite simple. Just let the dried cherry steep for 2 days and boil it after.
- Cherry Juice – Almost everyone is familiar with this. A miracle cure for about anything, even gout!
- Breads and Muffins – Apart from your traditional blueberries, you could try cherries for a change!
- Cherry Jam – A lot of people prefer sour cherries for a jam. You could give it an extra dimension by adding a splash of balsamic vinegar.
- You can store unopened canned cherries for up to a year. However, once opened, they could last for a week if refrigerated and sealed properly.
- Maraschino cherries could last from 6-12 months if refrigerated.
- They’re ideal for baking and would usually be found canned.
At just 100 calories and a half gram of fat per serving, cherries are the guilt-free snack for a health-conscious individual and a healthy substitute for candies or cakes. Not just that, they also make an excellent ingredient for a variety of breakfast, lunch, and even dinner options.
Here are some of the benefits of eating cherries:
- Eases aching joints – The rich red color of cherries came from anthocynanins, the same antioxidants found in grapes. This compound controls the enzymes associated with inflammation, soothing soreness that’s linked to joint and muscle pain.
- Controls the cholesterol level – Due to the fact that cherries are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that lowers the “bad” cholesterol, it could prevent heart disease.
- Protects the colon – Cherries contain quercertin, a flavonoid with anti-carcinogenic activity. A research published in the Journal of Nutrition states that it could help in preventing the damage in lesions from forming in the colon area.
- Improves eyesight – Sour cherries help in improving the eyesight whilst maintaining a healthy skin. It has 19 times the amount of beta-carotene present in blueberries.
- Improves sleep – Cherries are one of the food sources containing melatonin, a naturally occurring hormones that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm and sleeping pattern.
- Packed with vitamins and minerals – Rich in vitamins E, C, magnesium, potassium, folate, iron, and fiber.
- Aids in weight loss – Cherries are made up of more than 75% of water, making it an ideal weight loss food. Since it’s high in water, but low in calories, you’ll feel fuller for a longer period of time compared to foods and drinks that are high in calories.
- A good source of fiber – The fiber in cherries helps in accelerating weight loss whilst reducing cholesterol level by slowing down its absorption into the blood.
- Improves memory – Being known as a “brain food,” cherries aid in brain health and prevent memory loss.