Preserving Sour Cherries for Later Use
Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 9:53PM

I didn't go to the Farmer's Market yesterday looking for sour cherries. In fact, I wasn't expecting to find any NY State cherries at the market this year. (Unfortunately, the NY State crop was all but ruined due to poor weather conditions during the spring bloom.*) But as luck would have it, my favorite fruit farmer at the Tribeca Greenmarket managed to harvest a small amount of fruit to bring to market.

Even when the weather cooperates, fresh sour cherries are very difficult to find.  Unlike their sweet cousins, they have a very short growing season (roughly several weeks from the end of June to the middle of July) and they are highly perishable.  As a result, supermarkets and green grocers typically do not carry them. At most farmer's markets, they sell out in a blink.

In the US, sour cherries are primarily grown in northern Michigan, while most sweet cherries are grown in the Pacific Northwest.

One needs approximately 2 pounds of sour cherries to make a 9 inch pie -- which is exactly what I bought.  But once I got home, I knew that baking a cherry pie this weekend was out of the question. (I am leaving for the long holiday weekend on Friday, and I have alot to accomplish before then.) The obvious solution: preserve the cherries for later use.

There are various ways to preserve sour cherries, but the most straight forward is to freeze them.

It is not recommended to wash the fruit before freezing, as pre-washing can make the skin tough. The stems and pits should be removed however. It is actually much easier to pit a sour cherry than a sweet cherry. The fruit is softer and the pits dislodge easily.  I used a cherry pitter, but I know that many people just use a paper clip. 

After the cherries have been prepped, spread them onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and place them in the freezer for about 2 hours. When completely frozen, transfer the cherries to a zip lock bag and return them to the freezer. (This is a great trick when freezing blueberries as well). The advantage of using this method is that the cherries do not freeze into a solid block, thereby making it possible to take out only what you need.

I can't wait to bake a pie with these beauties, once things have settle down.

*Unfortunately, most of the cherry crop was lost this year due to poor weather conditions (ie 11 consecutive days of overcast conditions) during the spring bloom.  Without sunshine, plants are unable to produce carbohydrates (through photosynthesis) which fuels their growth.  I was told by several fruit farmers that the blooms literally fell off the tree.  

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