How to Store Cherries

Cherries, with their vibrant color and sweet, juicy flavor, are a beloved fruit, especially during the summer months, which is their peak season.

Proper storage is key to maintaining their quality and extending their shelf life, whether you’ve brought them home from a farmer’s market or plucked them from your own backyard tree.

By understanding how to store cherries effectively, you can enjoy them at their best for as long as possible.

Cherries in a glass container on a wooden shelf, with a label indicating the date of purchase

When you’ve got a batch of fresh cherries, keeping them cold is crucial, but that’s just the start.

Cherries should be stored in the refrigerator, where they can stay fresh for several days to a couple of weeks.

Keeping them dry and avoiding washing until you’re ready to eat them prevents premature spoilage.

If you’re looking to preserve cherries for longer periods, freezing is an excellent option that can keep them good for months, provided they are correctly prepared and stored.

Benefits of Proper Cherry Storage

When you store cherries correctly, you maintain their quality and flavor for a longer period.

Your fresh cherries come with a vibrant taste that’s at its peak just after purchase. Proper storage methods ensure this burst of flavor is preserved, so each cherry remains as delicious as if it were picked right from the tree.

Storing your cherries appropriately also has a direct impact on their longevity.

Cherries are a perishable fruit, which means they can deteriorate quickly if not stored under optimal conditions.

  • Cool Temperature: Refrigeration is key. Cherries thrive in cool environments, which slow down the ripening process and prevent spoilage.
  • Moisture Control: Avoid washing before storing, as excess moisture can encourage mold growth.
  • Damage Inspection: Routinely check for and remove any damaged cherries to prevent the spread of rot.

Table 1: Cherry Storage Methods

RefrigerationExtends freshness
Avoid WashingPrevents mold
Damage InspectionStops rot from spreading

Remember, you invest in the pleasure of enjoying fresh cherries with their intended flavor and quality when you take the time to store them properly. Your efforts in cherry storage translate to more enjoyable moments savoring this delectable fruit.

Selecting Cherries for Storage

For optimal storage results, your cherry selection process is crucial. Focus on sourcing cherries that are at peak freshness and displaying signs of quality.

Identifying Fresh Cherries

When choosing cherries for storage, seek out fruits that are firm and plump. The skins should be shiny and devoid of bruises or blemishes.

These indicators are synonymous with freshness and hint at how well they’ll maintain their quality during storage.

  • Firmness: Gently press the cherry between your fingers; if it resists slightly, it’s likely fresh.
  • Shiny Skins: Look for a glossy surface — a telltale sign of a cherry that hasn’t been on the shelf too long.

When to Buy Cherries

Cherries are a stone fruit with a prime season during the summer months, and they’re freshest in-season.

Aim to purchase cherries from a grocery store or farmers’ market during their peak times which typically ranges from late May to early June.

Cherries with bright green stems are often fresher, which can be more commonly found at farmers’ markets due to the turnover rate and proximity to sources.

Preparation Before Storing

Proper preparation of cherries before storage is essential to maintain their freshness and flavor. This preparation includes cleaning the cherries thoroughly and removing the pits if necessary for certain uses.

Washing and Drying

  • Washing: Begin by rinsing your cherries under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. You can do this using a colander to help distribute water evenly and make the process more efficient.
  • Drying: Once washed, spread the cherries out on a clean kitchen towel or layer them between paper towels to absorb any excess water. Gently pat them dry.

Pitting Cherries

  • Pitting: If you plan to use your cherries for cooking or baking, you may need to remove the pits.
  • Use a cherry pitter to eject the pits cleanly without causing too much damage to the fruit.
  • Handling Pits: Dispose of the cherry pits properly or consider composting them.
  • Removing pits before storage isn’t essential unless you’ve washed the cherries, as the presence of water can cause the pits to alter the flavor of the fruit over time.

Storage Methods

Proper storage is crucial for maintaining the freshness and extending the shelf life of your cherries. Below are the recommended methods for refrigerating, freezing, and using a storage container to keep your cherries at their best.

Refrigerating Cherries

To refrigerate cherries, first ensure they are clean and dry. Any excess moisture can lead to mold.

Store your cherries in a plastic bag with holes or a container lined with dry paper towels to absorb any moisture that may accumulate.

Place them in the refrigerator, ideally at a temperature set below 4°C (39°F).

This method will generally keep your cherries fresh for up to one week.

  • Step 1: Rinse and dry cherries.
  • Step 2: Place in a perforated plastic bag or towel-lined container.
  • Step 3: Refrigerate at a cool temperature.

Freezing Cherries

For longer storage, freezing is an effective method. To freeze cherries:

  1. Wash the cherries and remove any stems or damaged fruit.
  2. Dry them completely to prevent ice crystal formation.
  3. Pit the cherries if desired, as this can save space and make them ready to use once thawed.
  4. Lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze them until solid to prevent the cherries from sticking together.
  5. Once frozen, transfer the cherries to a freezer-safe bag or container, removing as much air as possible.
  6. Label your container with the date, and your cherries can typically last in the freezer for up to six months.
  • Step 1: Wash and pit cherries.
  • Step 2: Dry thoroughly and spread in a single layer to freeze.
  • Step 3: Store in freezer-safe containers or bags.

Using a Storage Container

If you prefer using a storage container to keep cherries in the fridge, select one that is airtight to maintain a moisture-free environment.

Line the container with parchment paper to absorb any additional moisture.

The container should be shallow rather than deep to allow air circulation around the cherries. Avoid overcrowding; instead, store in a single layer if possible.

  • Step 1: Select an airtight, shallow container.
  • Step 2: Line with parchment paper.
  • Step 3: Arrange cherries in a single layer and seal the container.

Optimizing Cherry Longevity

To maintain the freshness of cherries and extend their shelf life, you’ll need to be strategic about temperature and moisture control, and vigilant about signs of spoilage.

Temperature Control

Room Temperature: Best for cherries that will be consumed within a day. Beyond 24 hours, the likelihood of over-ripening increases.

Refrigerate: Store your cherries in the refrigerator immediately after purchase to keep them fresh for longer.

Ideally, aim for a temperature range between 32°F and 35°F (0°C and 1.7°C) to slow down the ripening process.

Moisture Management

  • Washing: Rinse your cherries with cold water only before eating, not before storing, to prevent excess moisture from encouraging mold growth.
  • Drying: After rinsing, thoroughly dry cherries with a clean towel or let them air dry completely to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Storage Method: Place your cherries in a bowl or container, uncovered, to allow air circulation. This minimizes moisture and condensation.

Avoiding Spoilage

When preparing your cherries for storage, discard any that show signs of mold or damages, as these can cause quicker spoilage.

Also, avoid stacking heavy items on top of the cherries. This pressure can cause bruising, which contributes to spoilage.

Monitoring Freshness

Inspect your stored cherries regularly for any that may have become overripe or begun to spoil, and remove them immediately.

Ripe cherries are plump and firm; signs of deterioration include soft spots, bruising, or leaking juices.

This not only maintains the quality of the remaining cherries but also prevents one spoiled cherry from affecting the others.

Usage Tips for Stored Cherries

Once you’ve properly stored your cherries in the freezer or refrigerator, you can use them to enhance a variety of dishes.

Whether you’re thawing frozen cherries for baking or serving them fresh, these tips ensure optimal use in your culinary endeavors.

Thawing Frozen Cherries

To thaw frozen cherries, place them in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for a few hours.

For immediate use, you can also put them in a bowl of cold water.

Thawed cherries are excellent for making jam, sauces, or being a sweet addition to desserts.

Cooking with Cherries

When cooking with cherries, use pitted cherries to prevent any interruptions in enjoying your meal.

Incorporate cherries into baking recipes like cherry pie, tarts, and other desserts.

Try adding them to savory dishes such as cherry salsa for a hint of sweetness.

  • Baking: Fold thawed or fresh cherries into batter or dough.
  • Sauces & Syrup: Simmer cherries with sugar and water until thickened.
  • Cherries in Recipes: Ensure cherries are dry to avoid excess moisture.

Serving Suggestions

Cherries make for a vibrant addition to fresh serving options.

Sprinkle fresh cherries onto ice cream, blend into smoothies, or simply serve them as a refreshing snack.

Keep stems on for a charming presentation and to maintain freshness if you’re not consuming them immediately.

  • Desserts: Top off a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a handful of cherries.
  • Smoothies: Blend frozen cherries to create a nutritious, flavorful drink.
  • Fresh Snacks: Offer a bowl of chilled cherries for an easy, healthy treat.

Common Cherry Varieties

A variety of cherries arranged in a basket, with some spilling out onto a wooden table. A refrigerator in the background

Before delving into cherry varieties, it’s essential to understand that cherries come in two primary types: sweet and sour. Each has distinct varieties perfect for different uses, be it for fresh eating or cooking.

Differentiating Cherry Types

Sweet cherries are the type you’re likely familiar with from the grocery store, commonly eaten fresh. They have a firm texture and a sweet, juicy taste.

Examples include Bing cherries, known for their deep red color and full flavor, and Lapin cherries, which are similar to Bing but often larger and more resistant to splitting.

Sour cherries, like the Montmorency variety, are smaller, softer, and more acidic.

Less common in supermarkets, they’re frequently used in cooking and baking because their tartness adds depth to dishes. They’re sometimes called pie cherries for this reason.

  • Bing: Deep red, sweet, firm
  • Lapin: Dark red, sweet, resistant to splitting
  • Montmorency: Reddish-yellow, tart, soft

Cherry Picking by Variety

When selecting Rainier cherries, another popular sweet variety, you’ll notice their yellowish hue with a red blush.

They are exceptionally sweet and delicate, often more expensive due to their short season and high demand.

Oregon State University has researched extensively on stone fruits, including cherries, and places like this can offer more in-depth guidance on specific cherry characteristics.

If you’re choosing cherries to pair with other stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, apricots, or plums for a fruit salad or dessert, consider the flavor profiles.

Sweet cherries generally pair well with these fruits, while sour cherries can add a contrasting flavor.

  • Rainier cherries: Yellow with red blush, very sweet, delicate

Health and Nutritional Information

A bowl of cherries with a label showing nutritional information. A refrigerator shelf with a container of cherries. Text stating "How to store cherries" with an arrow pointing to the refrigerator

Cherries are not only a delicious fruit but also a nutritious choice for a snack that can contribute to your overall health. The following information provides a deeper insight into their health benefits and what research has to say.

Cherries as a Healthy Snack

Cherries are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food, rich in vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that can benefit your health.

One cup of pitted cherries contains approximately:

  • 97 calories
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 25 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3 grams of fiber

They also provide vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants such as anthocyanins and quercetin.

As a stone fruit, cherries are a satisfying and hydrating pick for a snack during the week when they’re in season.

Scientific Studies on Cherries

Scientists have conducted various studies exploring the health impacts of cherries.

Findings suggest that cherries can provide several health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and potentially managing symptoms of arthritis and gout due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Consumption of cherries has also been associated with improved sleep quality, as they contain natural amounts of melatonin.

Research further supports cardiovascular benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, owing to their anthocyanin content.

However, it’s important to consult with healthcare experts when considering cherries for medicinal uses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Proper storage can significantly extend the freshness and taste of your cherries. Here’s how you can keep them at their best.

How can cherries be kept fresh in the refrigerator?

To keep cherries fresh in the refrigerator, place them in a plastic bag with some air circulation or a partially closed container. This will help maintain the right humidity level while keeping them cool.

What methods are recommended for long-term storage of cherries?

For long-term storage, freezing is your best option.

Pit the cherries, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze, and then transfer to a sealed bag or container. They can be stored like this for up to a year.

Is it necessary to store cherries in an airtight container?

Cherries should not be stored in a fully airtight container in the fridge because they require some airflow. However, when freezing cherries, an airtight container prevents freezer burn.

How long are cherries able to last once out of the fridge?

Once removed from the fridge, cherries can last at room temperature for a day or two.

Keep them in a cool, shaded place to prevent over-ripening or spoilage.

What is the proper procedure for washing cherries before refrigeration?

Wash cherries by swooshing them in cold water and rubbing their skins gently with your fingers.

Rinse them in a colander under running water before refrigeration, but avoid washing until you’re ready to eat or use them as excess moisture can lead to decay.

Do cherries need to be refrigerated to maintain freshness?

Yes, cherries should be refrigerated to maintain their freshness. Keeping them at a consistent, cool temperature slows down the ripening process. This also extends their shelf life.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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