Cherries Article -
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Learn a bit about these beautiful stone fruits--and find plenty of recipes for both sweet and sour cherries!

There are two kinds of cherries: sweet (the most common kind) and sour (the pie kind).

Sweet Cherries

Sweet cherries (Prunus avium) are the most commonly available types of cherries in the United States; with their high sugar content, they are perfect for eating out of hand. One of the most popular varieties of sweet cherry is the Bing.

  • Bing cherries range from dark red to almost black. They are firm but juicy, and very sweet when properly ripened.
  • Rainier cherries are golden with a pink blush on their skin, and their flesh is yellow to transparent. These cherries have a very sweet and delicate flavor, and like all cherries, they bruise easily.
  • Lamberts are heart-shaped beauties with dark red flesh and skin. Their sweet, rich flavor and juicy, meaty flesh make them a favorite for eating fresh as well as for cooking.
  • Royal Ann cherries have golden-pink skin and flesh. They are difficult to find fresh; most Royal Anns are used to make maraschino cherries.

These beautiful stone fruits are only at their peak for about a month each summer. So don't hold back, treat yourself to cherries when they're ripe!

Sour Cherries

Sour cherries (Prunus cerasus, named for the Turkish city of Cerasus) are rarely available fresh; most are immediately processed. Sour cherries are smaller and rounder than sweet ones, and do not keep well once they've been picked.

  • Montmorency cherries are the most common variety. They have bright red skin and beige, juicy flesh.
  • Morello cherries are more common in Europe. They are dark red and extremely tart, and their blood-red juice is often used for making liqueurs.

When sour cherries are at their peak, most of them are picked and pitted, then immediately frozen, canned, or dried. When buying frozen or canned sour cherries, check the label to see if they have already been sweetened so that you can adjust the amount of sugar in your recipe accordingly.

Choosing Cherries

Cherries don't ripen further once they're picked. They are very delicate fruits, and need to be treated with care.

  • Look at the stems of the cherries: those with plump, bendable stems have been picked recently. If the cherry stems are shriveled and brittle, the cherries are older and will be past their prime before long.
  • Choose cherries with stems still attached; this helps them maintain their freshness.
  • Select cherries with firm, smooth, unblemished skin, and buy only as many as you plan to eat in the next few days.
  • Keep them separated from strong-smelling foods, as cherries can absorb odors.
  • For best results, store them refrigerated in a plastic bag with holes in it, and don't wash your cherries until you're ready to use them

    Jul. 12, 2009 4:51 pm
    We have a grafted tree half Rainier and the other half Royal Ann's. We have buckets full. We are washing, drying and pitting them for freezing. I am wondering if this will work. Does anyone know?
    Jul. 12, 2009 5:47 pm
    To NWgrandma, Yes, this can also freeze with pit in.
    Feb. 6, 2010 9:39 am
    Anyone have recipes for dried cherries? I have no idea what kind, pretty tasty as they are, but need to do something with what I have.
    Jun. 7, 2010 7:21 am
    Do I need to cook fresh cherries for a time before I use them in a pie?
    Jun. 15, 2010 3:26 pm
    Carlow, no need to cook the cherries before using them in a pie. Simply wash them and add them to the recipe. Also, nanacabe, I just downloaded a free tart cherry recipe book from Traverse Bay Farms. It is free and has a number of great cherry recipes.
    Jul. 3, 2010 8:23 pm
    How do you pit cherries? I have never done this. I was given some delicious cherries and wan tto make a pie. any suggestions?
    Jul. 29, 2010 12:44 pm
    Martha Stewart uses a paperclip: Unbend at the middle and either use the small side or the big side depending on the size of the cherry. Scoop from stem to under the pit and pull it out. Can Pit & de-stem at the same time like that. If you want to leave the stems on scoop pits out from the bottom
    Sep. 24, 2010 6:59 am
    Our favorite way to eat sweet cherries is to freeze them on a cookie sheet, bag them and eat them, partially frozen, as a snack.
    Nov. 23, 2010 6:20 am
    Do you have to use sour cherries for pies? I bought fresh Bing cherries...
    Feb. 23, 2011 4:44 pm
    can you buy depitted cherries without all that gunk in them ex:sugar syrup,fake flavor
    Jun. 1, 2011 7:28 am
    how long do cherries typically last in the fridge? What's the best way to tell if they have gone bad?
    Jun. 4, 2011 5:40 pm
    Today was the Cherry Festival in Leona Valley, CA where we live. Next weekend most of the orchards will be open for picking. Yay for cherries!
    Jun. 22, 2011 7:17 am
    Thank you very much for letting me see this. It sure gives me more knowledge and will come in very handy when I'm the one that has to choose the right cherries. Thanks again, I really appreciate this.
    Jul. 9, 2011 10:33 am
    Jenny can use Bing cherries for pie. I use about a cup of sugar. Moxievintage...Even though we grow cherries (Bing, Van, Rainier), I'm not an expert. I've kept them for up to a week in the fridge. If they get mushy or moldy I toss them. You can lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Once they have froze put them in a zip lock bag.
    Jul. 27, 2011 10:04 am
    we have 2 different kinds of cherry trees 1 has almost purple looking ones on it, and the other one has a really bright red almost neon color anyone have a clue is to what kind they might be? also any suggestions on an easy way to get the pit out of them? thanks
    Feb. 19, 2012 3:58 am
    I can understand February having been chosen as cherry month, what with Washington's birthday and the whole "Washington-chopping-down-the-cherry-tree" myth and all, but cherries aren't even in season in February! As for pitting cherries, there are gadgets called, not-so-coincidentally, cherry pitters to take care of that task. I love cherries, but, unfortunately, as with all other fresh fruits and veggies, unless they're on sale, I just can't afford them. Too darned expensive!
    Feb. 19, 2012 4:30 am
    I can understand February having been chosen as cherry month, what with Washington's birthday and the whole "Washington-chopped-down-the-cherry-tree" myth and all. But, cherries aren't even in season in February! As for pitting cherries, there are gadgets called, not-so-coincidentally, cherry pitters to take care of that task. I love cherries, but, as with all other fresh fruits and veggies, unless they're on sale, they're just too darned expensive; I can't afford 'em. Eat more fruits and veggies? Yeah, I'll GLADLY eat more fruits and veggies -- AFTER I HIT THE LOTTERY!!
    Mar. 12, 2012 5:52 am
    Stores in the Seattle area sell all kinds of Remlinger Farms frozen fruit including 3# bags of unsweetened/pitted pie cherries for 11 or 12 dollars.
    Apr. 15, 2012 6:01 pm
    My favorite fruit so I loved reading about it!
    Jul. 4, 2012 8:12 am
    susie117 i pitted my cherries using a straw. ppush the straw into the cherry the pit comes out without having to cut the cherry in half. its a messy job if the cherries are very juicy but it works.
    Jul. 10, 2012 11:55 am
    I have both sour and Bing cherries. I love the sour cherries dried. Wonderfully tart.
    Jul. 13, 2012 4:57 pm
    I have just recently moved from TX to WA, wow what a change all kinds of fruit. Rainer sell around 3-4 dollars a lb, Bing about $2. I pick my own from my yard, raasberries, blackberries (bosenberries) and blueberries, freeze couple hours, then put in air tight bags last a yr (zip lock doesnt last as long but will work). When need wash and use frozen, good in bread, cake and ice cream.
    Aug. 11, 2012 2:36 pm
    I make kirsch pfanne which is a German dish - kind of like a bread pudding w/fresh cherries. My family loves it. Has anyone ever heard of it before?
    Aug. 11, 2012 7:46 pm
    tried pitting cherries w/straw - works quite well - a bit messy and also time consuming but well worth it! thank you, Sharbaby!
    Kim S. 
    Aug. 19, 2012 8:04 am
    I have several bags of fresh bing cherries. I'm wanting to can them but im not sure how to. I have heard you can can them just like peaches and other fruit but I cant find a recipe for it on here.
    Jun. 13, 2013 1:33 pm
    Just got a bag yesterday & I can't wait to finish it.
    Jun. 13, 2013 11:40 pm
    Make cherry liquer! I wash & pit cherries, put them in a quart sized canning jar. Pour about 1/2 - 1 cup sugar over them. Top off with vodka. Gently shake to help dissolve sugar. Let sit in dark, cool place (basement) until the holidays & gently shake every couple of weeks. Very good over ice with some 7-up, sprite or cola.
    Aug. 30, 2014 7:01 am
    Does anyone have any idea for recipes that use dried cherries? Were were given a 2lb bag but need some ideas so they don't go to waste.
    Jun. 16, 2015 5:59 pm
    I have a Montmorency (sour) cherry tree that is about 30 years old. I pick and pit one basketful at a time. To pit them I just take the stem in one hand and the cherry in the other - gently squeeze the cherry and pull on the stem. The pit and stem pop right out. Then I freeze and store in bags - sometimes just the 4 or so cups required for a pie.
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