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.
Cherries: Everything You Need to Know
What to 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, follow the storage tips detailed below.
Two primary types of cherries exist: sweet and sour (also known as tart). Sweet varieties include the deep red, plump Bing, and the bright red, late-blooming Lambert, as well as golden cherries softly tinged with blush colors, like the soft Royal Ann and the large, crisp Rainier. All of these are best for eating fresh.
In contrast, tart varieties are smaller and softer, and found in markets, often regionally in the Midwest, for a few short weeks during June and July. They usually too sour to consume raw, but their flavor and texture are prized when baked in pies or turnovers or cooked into preserves and sauces. Because sour cherries are alsotouted for their exercise recovery benefits, you can often find the juice bottled as well.
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.
To store cherries, put fresh fruit in a shallow container covered with paper towels or a clean cloth. Refrigerate immediately, and eat within 5 days.
Your Cherry 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
All sweet cherries pair well in savory dishes with poultry and meats, especially duck, pheasant, pork and venison. They’re also wonderful used in summer pies, pastries and ice cream.
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.
For a playful contrast in flavors, try serving Bitter Greens with Duck Breast and Cherries. Flavorful greens, like red Asian mustard greens, arugula, watercress or dandelion leaves, combined with rich duck breast, fresh cherries and a light Champagne vinaigrette, make a gorgeous spring lunch or dinner.
One spectacular way to kick off a weekend morning? Brown butter waffles with cherries. The indentations on waffles are ideal for catching browned butter and the juices from this honeyed cherry compote.
Cherry compote is a wonderful way to preserve the essence of fresh cherries, and this vibrant, almond-tinged version pairs well with a wide variety of cheeses.
One refreshing way to experiment with the tart variety is by whipping up a simple sour cherry frozen yogurt, which you can make even without access to fresh sour cherries. Of course, if you have fresh fruit, your frozen treat will only taste that much better.
Pot pies shouldn’t just be for chicken, beef or vegetables; try your hand at this sweet-tangy version.