When 30 pounds of fresh cherries from Northwest Cherry Growers arrive at your doorstep, it’s hard not to begin eating them one cherry, one pound at a time. But when you want to make more than just cherry pie with them, you start trying to figure out other things to do with cherries.
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When is cherry season?
Generally speaking, the sweet cherry season in the United States runs from about May through August. What’s nice about this is that they’re ready to harvest at different times in different areas of the country, basically from south to north.
For instance, parts of California may begin harvesting at the end of April/beginning of May, and about the time that harvest is ending, it’s beginning in Washington State. We benefit by being able to purchase fresh cherries in grocery stores for a longer period of time.
What can I do with so many cherries?
Juicy and perfectly ripe, my family welcomed these cherries. But there was ALOT of them! Soon we were researching new and creative recipes for things to make with cherries so we could enjoy them now and months later as sweet preserves.
Interestingly, 75-80% of sweet cherries are eaten fresh. Of course, when you bite into one of these perfectly ripe ruby jewels, you can understand why!
One last thing before we get to those recipes, I enjoyed the Northwest Cherry Growers page for information, recipes, and even cute labels to print out for my preserves.
Ok, here are all the recipes we tried and links so you can try them, too!
Sugar-Free Maraschino Cherries
My daughter requested homemade maraschino cherries, and since we all love those on our ice cream sundaes, she went to work making a healthy version with no sugar added. As these cherries marinated in the sweetened vodka mixture, I discovered the richly flavored vodka was perfect for a little nip now and then, like, whenever I opened the refrigerator door!
These maraschino cherries are not the artificially bright red cherries from the grocery store but will definitely be an adult-friendly mix in with vanilla ice cream or eaten on their own.
- 5 ½ cups (1.5lbs) Fresh Cherries, pitted with stems removed
- 1 ¾ cups Water
- 1 cup Vodka
- 1 tbs Stevia Extract
- 1 tbs Natural Cherry Flavor
- ½ tsp Almond Extract
Our first task was to pit all of these cherries. Rather than do this by hand, I purchased a cherry pitter that can handle six cherries at once. With as many cherries as we had, we needed to get through this task quickly, and this little gadget lived up to our expectations.
Russian Pickled Cherries
In our research to find different ways to use cherries, besides the preserves detailed in this article, we came across this very unusual recipe. However, it takes a whole month or so to let the cherries pickle, so be patient. It’s worth it; so different and tasty!
- 4 cups sweet cherries. I prefer dark stems removed, but pits left intact.
- 2 cups raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the side of a knife or a heavy pan to expose the seeds
- half of a cinnamon stick
- 8 scrapes of whole nutmeg on a rasp grater or fine microplane
- 2 whole allspice berries
- Optional, but tasty, 2 t. kirsch (cherry brandy)
Go to Foodie With Family for complete instructions. If you make these, my hunch is that you’ll be glad you did.
Homemade Cherry Ripe Bites
Once more, my creative and Google-savvy daughter tracked down another winning recipe. We still have a few of these left in the freezer, and every once in a while, the cold chocolate/cherry combination is just the perfect treat.
- 1/2 pounds pitted, fresh cherries
- 2 T. dry-roasted strawberry powder* or 2 T. goji berries
- 3/4 c. coconut flakes
- 1 T. coconut oil, melted
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted
*You’ll notice that dry-roasted strawberry powder is called for in this recipe. This, apparently, is something to be found on the grocery store shelves in Australia, where this recipe originates. Fortunately, we have freeze-dried strawberries, which we put in a blender for a few seconds to make our own powder. If you don’t have freeze-dried strawberries, you can dehydrate your own and then blend them to powder. Either way, this is a healthy, sugar-free recipe, which also happens to be a nicely sweet treat.
Get complete instructions and more details here.
Spiced Cherry Amaretto Jam
Without a doubt, this was our very favorite cherry recipe out of everything we tried. It’s from The Prepper’s Canning Guide by Daisy Luther, and that book is worth every penny.
And sadly, purchasing it is what you’ll have to do for this recipe. But if you don’t have a copy yet, today is the day to pick it up. It contains simple instructions for getting started with both water bath canning and pressure canning. However, the real treasure you’ll find between the covers is the recipes.
Spiced Cherry Amaretto Jam calls for four pounds of sweet cherries, sugar, amaretto, and a few spices, including cloves, that will make your tastebuds sing. We canned eight jars of this.
After that, we made a second batch using Kirsch in place of amaretto. That version was tasty, but we voted, and the big winner was the amaretto version.
A few of the other recipes we’ve tried from Daisy’s book turned out just as good — Slow Cooker Plum Butter and Brown Sugar Peach Preserves with jalapenos, in particular. Daisy’s book is simple enough that my daughter picked up on canning quickly, and she is now the “Family Canning Queen.”
I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection.
Brandied Cherry Jam
This recipe allowed us to put our favorite Dutch oven to use.
- 5 cups sweet or sour cherries, pitted
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, approximately 1 large lemon
- 2-3 tablespoons cherry brandy, such as Kirsch
We combined the cherries and sugar in our Dutch oven and then stirred over low heat until the sugar dissolved in the juice of the cherries and the cherries themselves were fully softened.
This jam was straightforward to make and was the perfect topping for a slightly boozy topping over vanilla ice cream. The original recipe for this jam can be found at Savory Simple.
Cherry Chocolate Muffins
There’s a funny story behind these muffins, and it has to do with The Great British Baking Show. Are you familiar with this series? My family fell in love with the quirky, everyday bakers, the even quirkier hosts, and the two judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.
Strangely, the biggest fan of the show is my husband! In fact, he said, “I don’t even know why, but I could sit and watch that show all day long!”
As a result, when his birthday came around, our daughter bought him Paul Hollywood’s cookbook, How to Bake. Then she challenged her dad to begin baking, which he has! He now bakes Paul’s recipes for challah, White Cobb Loaf, and wholemeal bread.
With all those many pounds of fresh cherries from Northwest Cherry Growers, we wanted to make a couple of baked recipes that were out of the ordinary. The Cherry Chocolate Muffins turned out to be one of our favorite baked goodies in a long while. Very rich and buttery.
- 200 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 150 g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 200 g strong white bread flour
- 1 1/2 t. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- Splash of milk
- 150 g of good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 470 g jar pitted morello cherries, drained
As a U.S. baker using our standard measuring units, you’ll need to convert grams into ounces using this Cooking Ingredients Conversion website. In addition, be sure to jot down the U.S. measurements in your cookbook, so you can skip this time-consuming step next time around.
Caster sugar is simply granulated sugar that has been ground to a super-fine consistency in a blender. Here are instructions for making your own caster sugar.
If you want to be 100% in compliance with Paul’s recipe and cannot find a jar of morello cherries, you can buy them on Amazon. Instead, we just used pitted fresh cherries and really liked the results.
For complete instructions, and because copying and pasting someone’s baking instructions isn’t kosher, you’ll find Paul’s recipe for Cherry Chocolate Muffins in his cookbook.
A second recipe from How to Bake by Paul Hollywood introduced our family to a fancy French word, Clafoutis. I can tell you this, it’s not pronounced kluh-foo’-tiss.
A clafoutis is an egg-based recipe that would be perfect for a brunch. Of all the recipes we made with our shipment of cherries, this one was our least favorite, but I think it’s because we used too large of a baking dish and the final result was on the thin side. Nevertheless, it’s worth making for a slightly sweet, elegant dish.
- Large knob of unsalted butter for greasing
- 75 g plain flour
- 75 g caster sugar
- 300 ml full-fat milk
- 2 medium eggs, separated
- 2 T. kirsch
- 400 g ripe black cherries, pitted
- Powdered sugar for dusting
The next time you are looking for a special dish to bring to a potluck or breakfast/brunch, a clafoutis is eye-catching and just exotic enough to enhance your reputation as a chef par excellence.
You’ll find Paul’s recipe for Clafoutis Monique in his cookbook.
BONUS: Make a shrub
Shrubs have been around for a long time and were very popular in 17th Century Europe and Colonial America. At that time, a shrub syrup was made by steeping fruit (usually berries) in vinegar for a while as a preservation method and then adding the syrup to club soda.
Team Survival Mom writer, Beth Buck, has some experience with shrubs. Read her excellent write-up about the history of shrubs, instructions for making a cherry shrub (with helpful pictures), and what she thought of the results.
We used up those 30 pounds of ruby jewels!
When I first opened that huge box of cherries, I was a little dismayed.
How on earth were we going to put them to good use?
However, it didn’t take long to find a fantastic variety of recipes. Above all, I want to thank Northwest Cherry Growers for providing me with the cream of the crop when it comes to fresh cherries.
What are your favorite things to make with cherries? Let me know in the comments!
This article was originally published on September 11, 2017, and has been updated.