Is there a better early summer fruit than the cherry?
OK, yes, we love peaches eaten straight from the hand or in pie. Plums are epic in the famous Marian Burros torte or our own mini galettes. But cherries have a certain something. They’re one of early summer’s iconic foods, right up there with fresh apricots, burgers hot off the grill, and watermelon. The season for fresh cherries is quite short—usually running from late May to late July—so don’t delay in taking advantage of their sweet and versatile flavor. Here’s how to select, store and eat the fruit—plus, the cherry recipes you need right now.
Know the Type You Want
Sounds obvious, but be sure not to conflate sweet and tart (sometimes called “sour”) cherries. (Most folks can’t handle eating the tart ones raw!) The difference will be in the amount of sugar you use in the recipe.
How to Select
Look for sweet cherries (with names like Bing, Lambert, Rainier and Royal Ann) at the market as early as May, depending on where in the country you live, and tart ones in July. Both seasons expire by early August. Pick out spot-free, firm fruit that feels heavy for its size.
How to Store
Refrigerate cherries right when they’re home, and eat within five days. Don’t remove stems or rinse with water until you’re ready to use them. Store them in a shallow container covered with paper towels or a clean cloth. Pit the fruit with a pitter or small, sharp knife.
Hungry yet? Great. Here are a few of our favorite ways to incorporate fresh cherries into a range of recipes.
Iconic. We say “as American as apple pie” in this country, but you know, this gorgeous latticed cherry pie could totally steal the “Miss USA” title. Ideally you’ve got a lattice crust cutter to get you rolling. This recipe features a diagram, if that lattice looks too tricky (we promise it’s not) and a blessedly short ingredients list. Make more dough than you think you’ll need, and keep yourself in stone fruit desserts all summer long.
After you fire up the grill for the season, salads may well be harder to rustle up. After all, “dog” and “bun” go together like “ocean” and “sunscreen.” It’s so easy to pair them and call it a meal. But you’re not going to feel so great after three months of that lifestyle—we speak from experience—so your best bet is to keep your vegetables extra-delicious, so you’re more likely to make them. Keep them simple, too, like this salad ready in about half an hour. Pickled onions are in there; you should have those handy for your tacos anyways. The rest is all seasonal produce that’s a delight to eat: curlicues of rainbow carrots; leaves of Little Gem lettuce; watercress; chervil leaves; pea shoots; juicy cherries. Feta and pistachios add creaminess and crunch. Have your hot dog afterwards.
Break out the immersion circulator for sous vide pork chops that are just the thing to make for guests, particularly on a rainy late-spring evening. We love that you can do much of the legwork on these days in advance, simmering the chops and just frying them up to order. Cherries are as fabulous with chops as they are with duck. Polenta, that surprisingly straightforward side, can be the bed you plate the chops on or the buttery puddle you serve alongside. This is just such a lovely way to enjoy summer produce.
A Dutch baby is a treat to enjoy year-round. Change the topping to suit the weather. On busy mornings, maple syrup or confectioners sugar are completely acceptable and delightful. On summer weekend mornings, make everything a little luxe by adding sautéed stone fruit. Nectarines, peaches, cherries, sugar, cinnamon and lemon nestle together before tumbling on top of the puffy pancake. It’s precisely as fabulous as it looks, which is what you deserve this and every summer.
It’s not just you. Any mere mortal would get a little panicky watching the fruits of their labor vanish as guests chomp away (and take seconds, the humanity!) at your cherry pie. This is one of those situations, as when making chicken broth, when you just need to take a “more is more” approach. A latticed cherry slab pie (almost) guarantees you leftovers. You’re going to want them for nibbling cold straight out of the fridge, with iced coffee tomorrow morning. We’re particular fans of this recipe for its volume, its food-processed dough, and the fact that you can use frozen pitted cherries if the market is out.