6 Wonderful Ways to Use This Year’s Cherry Crop
It’s that time again! Cherries are becoming ripe on the tree, and whether you prefer sweet or sour, they can bolster your pantry with several tasty treats for months to come. As this was our first year living a new home with 2 amazingly fruitful trees, we’ve had a great time picking and planning for how we will use them. Check out the ways we will make this year’s modest cherry harvest last!
Assuming that the birds haven’t eaten all of your harvest (you’ll know your cherries are ripe when the birds start to steal them), you can research your particular type of tree to determine when they are ready for pickin’ and eating! Pesky birds getting too many of them? We have had great success with hanging scratched DVD’s and CD’s from the branches. The reflective light is distracting for the birds, and they’ve pretty much left our crop alone.
Picking can be time consuming, but if you’re up for taking the cherries off the branches by the stems (instead of taking just the fruit), you can usually get 3-6 cherries at a time. I enlist the help of all my kids to do this. The older ones can get high up on ladders, while the younger ones use a makeshift scaffolding that’s wide enough to walk on safely and is lower to the ground. There will always be those beautiful cherries that live at the top and we won’t be able to reach. We’ll consider this our gift to the wild birds that live in the area!
Now that we’ve harvested, how will we enjoy them? With only a week or so before they need to be used up (less time if the cherries have gotten too ripe), we will sort, soak, and pit them. There are all kinds of ways to remove the cherry pits, or stones, including commercial pitters (here is the one we use). There are also some nifty YouTube videos that instruct you on doing so with everything from bobby pins to paper clips!
In addition to the more traditional pie fillings and jams, here are the 6 unique ways we plan on using our cherries.
You can do this with either a food dehydrator (allow 12 hours or so) or in your oven. Pit them and cut them in half before putting them on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper at 140 degrees for 6-10 hours. Do not dry them too much! They should look and feel like raisins when you’re done. (These will be wonderful in any dish that raisins can be used: cookies, breads, puddings, etc.)
2. Salad Fixings
Both sweet and sour cherries are perfect for a fresh green salad OR as a fruity extra for chicken salads. Pit and halve for a colorful complement.
3. Cherry Vinegar
Can’t you imagine how flavorful this will taste? According to Weight Watcher’s online cherry guide, you can “add 1 cup of dried cherries to 2 cups of white wine vinegar in a glass container with a lid. Let steep for two days, bring just to boil and drain. Store vinegar in a sealed container. It's great for homemade vinaigrettes. Just combine 1 1/2 teaspoons cherry vinegar, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon coriander and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.” Yum!
4. Cherry Liquor or “Liqueur”
Not that I’m looking to party hard any time soon, but a special cherry liquor is something priceless to have on hand for fancy desserts and the like. The directions for this version are especially simple, require no cooking, and will (hopefully) result in a beautiful tart liqueur!
5. Cherry Juice
In addition to being sold as a miracle cure for just about everything (including gout), it just tastes great! You can make your own with ripe cherries following a few simple steps. (Feel free to leave out the sugar, if you’re concerned.)
6. Breads and Muffins
Skip the blueberries and bring on the cherries! I’m so excited to be able to make all kinds of cherry nut breads and muffins. I’ve even arranged a swap of some cherries for Mom’s rhubarb, so I can mix the two for some fantastic snacking! (Plus, these types of breads freeze really well.)
Are you excited to begin digging into your cherry harvest? Don’t throw away the pits (or stones) just yet. You can actually use them to create your own heating pads (or cherry stone bed warmers, as they used to call them). Here are some directions from Mother Earth news for creating your own heating pillows from the prepared pits!
How will you use this year’s cherry harvest? Missed cherry season? Check out all the ways you can use up mulberries!