Maybe it’s their short season that makes perfectly ripe, fresh cherries such an unrivaled treat, whether eaten fresh, cooked on the stovetop or baked into bright, sweet-tart desserts. As they hit farmers’ markets in late spring, use our tips for choosing and preparing cherries, and try a few of our favorite ways to prepare them, straight from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Make sure cherries are large, plump and smooth, with stems attached and firm, green leaves. They should be used as soon as possible; if you do need to store them, refrigerate in a shallow container covered with a clean cloth or paper towels for up to 5 days.
Prep tips: Keep stems attached until you’re ready to use — once you remove them, the cherries will spoil quickly. To keep them from molding, wash cherries under cold running water just before using. Before using them in recipes, pit the fruit with a cherry pitter or small, sharp knife. Here’s your toolkit:
- OXO Cherry & Olive Pitter, for pitting cherries
- All-Clad d5 Stainless-Steel Saute Pan, to make a pan sauce with cherries
- Emile Henry Artisan Ruffled Pie Dish, for baking cherry pies
- Stainless-Steel 3-Piece Mesh Colander Set, for washing cherries
Types and uses: Sweet cherries, such as the deep red, plump Bing and bright red Lambert varieties are best for eating fresh. More delicate Royal Ann, Ranier and other golden cherries may be only softly tinged with pink or red. All sweet cherries pair well in savory dishes with poultry and meats, especially duck, pheasant, pork and venison. They’re also perfect for summer pies, pastries and ice cream.
Variations: Sour cherries are smaller and softer than their sweet relatives, found in markets for only a few weeks during the summer. They are usually too sour to eat raw, but their flavor and texture are prized when baked in pies or turnovers or cooked into preserves and sauces.
Seared Duck Breast with Cherry-Port Sauce: Season duck breast with salt and pepper. Cook, skin side down, in saute pan until crisp. Transfer to rack-lined baking sheet. Roast at 375°F until medium-rare. Cook minced shallot in saute pan until tender. Deglaze with port; add chicken stock and pitted cherries. Cook until thickened; whisk in butter. Spoon over duck.
Grilled Mahimahi with Cherry Salsa: Season mahimahi fillets with salt, cayenne and lime juice. Grill over high heat until cooked through. Combine pitted cherries, diced jalapeno, chopped shallots, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, lime juice and salt. Serve salsa over mahimahi.
Cherry & Goat Cheese Salad with Hazelnuts: Whisk together minced shallots, sherry vinegar, hazelnut oil, salt and pepper. Toss mixed greens and pitted sour cherries with vinaigrette. Top salad with crumbled goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts.
Cherries Jubilee: In saute pan, toss pitted cherries with sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook until slightly softened and juices release. Remove from heat, add a splash of brandy and flambe; cook until flame goes out. Serve immediately over vanilla ice cream.
Individual Cherry Crisps: Combine pitted cherries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch; divide among ramekins. Top with streusel (brown sugar, flour, oats and butter combined until clumpy). Bake at 375°F until filling is bubbly and streusel is browned.
Cherry Pie: Combine 2 lb. pitted cherries, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cornstarch; transfer to prepared pie shell in 9-inch pie pan. Top with pie dough round; flute edges. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 350°F; bake 55 to 60 minutes more. Cool 1 hour before serving.