The adage “all good things must come to an end” is undoubtedly true of the cherry season’s finale. The conclusion of Stemilt’s cherry season is approaching after daily picking since May. This time of the year, I get a lot of emails from people asking how they can preserve cherries so they can enjoy them in the off-season. While there are a variety of ways to preserve cherries (or any fruit for that matter), I frequently recommend freezing cherries since it is quick, straightforward, and keeps the nutrition and flavor of the fruit. I set out to freeze cherries for my family this weekend, and I’d want to share my approach and findings with you.
Can you freeze fresh cherries?
Yes you can. Below are the steps for how to freeze cherries.
How to Freeze Cherries?
Step 1 – Wash your cherries:
A cold water rinse or a fruit/vegetable spray might also be used.
Step 2 – Cut the stems off the plants.
It’s best to leave the stems on the cherry until you’re ready to use/freeze them since they help keep the fruit fresh.
Step 3 – Remove the pits from the cherries:
You can freeze the cherries whole, pit and all, but because I’ll probably use them directly out of the freezer in a smoothie or feed them to my child once they’ve thawed, I opted to save time and complete this step now. Use your cherry pitter if you have one. I didn’t, so pitting the cherries was a bit of a pain and a chore (you have to dig them out with a spoon or pop them out with your hand). To make removing the pits a little easier, I sliced each cherry in half. I cut around the pit in the same way that an avocado pit is cut around.
Step 4 – Arrange pitted cherries on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper in a single layer:
I spent the weekend with my parents and was able to use their freezer for this project! My freezer would have been too narrow to fit a large cookie sheet else. You can skip this step and freeze the cherries in a Ziploc bag if your freezer is the same. Simply be aware that you will be dealing with a block of frozen cherries rather than individual frozen cherries.
Step 5 – Place the cherries in the freezer:
The time it takes to freeze cherries depends on your freezer’s settings. It took me around 6 hours to completely freeze two cookie sheets of halved cherries.
Step 6 – Take out of the freezer and arrange in freezer bags:
I took the cherries off the cookie sheet and placed them in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag after I was sure they were frozen. I put a date on the bag so I’d remember when it was time to throw it away (assuming I hadn’t used it all by then). Cherries can last 6 months in the freezer, or up to a year in a deep freezer. I froze about 54 cherries, which resulted in a quart-size bag of frozen cherries.
Step 7 – Return the cherries to the freezer:
The frozen cherries are returned to the freezer until they are needed.
Can you Freeze Fresh Cherries?
We are frequently asked if cherries can be frozen, and the answer is yes!
Cherries are really simple to freeze. There are two methods to choose from, and which one you like is entirely up to you. Both methods work well, and the cherries will last months in either case.
First method (Easiest Method for Freezing Cherries):
Washing cherries, gently blotting them dry with a paper towel, and arranging them on a cookie sheet is the simplest way to freeze them. Place them in the freezer for a few hours to firm up. Then, take them out of the freezer and package them in zip-loc containers. You can consume them at any time by pulling them out. Before trying to consume them, it’s better to let them thaw for a few minutes. If you have kids in the house, pitting the cherries first is a good idea. If you don’t have any children and don’t want to pit the cherries, keep in mind that the pits are there, and they’re really hard. If you try to bite through, you’ll most likely shatter a tooth, so proceed with caution. It’s also easier to pit them first if you’re going to use them in smoothies or blended drinks.
You’ll need plastic containers with lids for this method of freezing cherries. The ones that contain about a cup are the best. This is a fantastic way to repurpose unused butter, spread, or similar containers. Any plastic, food-safe container with a lid in the 1–2 cup range would suffice.
Sugar, water, and cherries are required. We prepare a light sugar syrup with this recipe. Because cherries are quite delicious, we recommend using as little sugar as possible while still enjoying them. A 1:4 ratio is recommended.
4 cups cherries, washed and blotted dry, or if you have children who will eat them later, pit the cherries.
In a pot, measure out 4 cups of water to make the syrup. Add one cup of sugar to the mix. Bring the water to a boil. Bring the mixture back to a boil with the cherries. Turn the heat off. Allow for a 15–20 minute cooling period.
Ladle the cherries and liquid into the containers gently. Allow them to cool to room temperature before serving. Place in the freezer on a low setting. Pull out once it has totally frozen and let it defrost for a few minutes before eating. If you’ve left the pits in, just be careful not to bite into one when eating!
Recommendations for Diabetics:
If you have diabetes, you can replace the sugar with a sweetener. We use half the amount of sweetener because sweeteners are often sweeter than sugar. So we use 1/2 cup of sweetener for every 4 glasses of water. You can also freeze without adding any sugar. Simply bring the water to a boil, add the cherries, return to a boil, and ladle out when cool enough to handle. Freeze.