How To Store Cherries So They Last, According to a Cherry Expert

No mushy cherries allowed.

<p>Simply Recipes / Getty Images </p>

Simply Recipes / Getty Images

I love cherry season. I know summer is around the corner when I get to spend part of my weekend settled into the couch with a bowl of cherries and a favorite dog-eared book. Other seasonal produce doesn’t hit quite the same for me.

Berries come in petite little clamshells, and rhubarb requires work, but cherries to me always come with a side of gluttony. Warm weather and icy cold cherries just feel so luxurious, a little bit of excess in the everyday.

However, I am pretty particular about my cherries. I like them really firm, almost crunchy. I always check them before purchasing to make sure they haven’t softened too much. For me, the allure of cherries is just as much about the texture as it is the sweet-tart flavor. So I spoke with Karley Lange of Northwest Cherries, a commission of cherry producers and professionals in Washington, to better understand how to maximize the life of my favorite fruit.

The Best Way To Store Cherries

  • Keep them refrigerated. Put your cherries in the refrigerator as soon as you get home from the store. Cherries lose more quality in one hour at 68°F than in 24 hours at 32°F. They’ll last for a few days when kept refrigerator.

  • Keep them dry. Cherries will absorb any surface water and soften, which causes decay. But don’t be afraid to wash them. “It's perfectly OK to wash and dry them before eating,” says Lange. “The biggest thing is not letting water sit in the area next to the stem.” I like to wash and dry them in a salad spinner. This way they’re ready to eat whenever I want to sneak a handful, or easily toss them in my kid’s lunchbox on a busy morning.

<p>Simply Recipes / Getty Images </p>

Simply Recipes / Getty Images

How To Freeze Cherries

Lange recommends freezing cherries to make the most of their short season.

  1. Wash and pit the cherries. You can use a cherry pitter if you have one. If not, Lange recommends placing the cherry on the top of a bottle and poking the pit through with a sturdy straw. (A chopstick works great too.) The pit falls into the bottle, and the cherry is safe and secure on top.

  2. Freeze them flat. Place the pitted cherries in a zip-top bag. Lay the bag flat to freeze. Once solid, you can move the bag around. Laying them flat initially keeps them from freezing into a solid block. If you have a large quantity, freeze the cherries flat on a baking sheet. Once frozen, portion them into zip-top bags and return to the freezer. 

  3. Thaw them properly. It’s best to thaw cherries before baking with them. Thaw them at room temperature for a few hours, or overnight in the fridge. They’ll be softer once thawed and will release a lot of liquid. Strain and save that liquid for another use rather than stirring it into your recipe. Lange warns that the excess liquid may mess with the consistency of your recipe.

Sometimes, time is not on your side. “If time is a factor and you don't mind thawing them to pit later, you can freeze with the pit in,” says Lange. This is especially helpful when you get a bit greedy at the store and just aren’t able to finish the cherries before they start to soften.

It's better to toss them in the freezer to deal with later than to lose them completely. It might seem like leaving a problem for another day, but I just like to think of it as a treat for future me. I will gladly pit peak summer cherries on a gray January day.

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.