I think when someone mentions cherries the first thought that comes to mind are the sweet summer fruits, easily found at farmer’s markets and in grocery stores. But for me sour cherries are where it is at. Also know as pie cherries or tart cherries, these bright red little gems are more pucker inducing than a sour patch kid. Most people don’t eat them raw, but I have no qualms about popping a few fresh tart cherries in my mouth.
Sour cherries have an incredibly short season, and it can be hard to get your hands on them. But it is worth the effort of finding some, nothing compares to a pie filled with sour cherries. I personally have no shame and harass/stalk/beg a friend who is a fruit farmer for sour cherries, and no I will not reveal my source.
So once you have gotten your sour cherries, by any means necessary you are going to want to save them so you can enjoy pies and cherry almond kuchen all year. Luckily sour cherries freeze beautifully, but you are going to want to work fast, sour cherries are extremely perishable, even in refrigeration you probably only have a couple of days once the cherries are picked.
Freezing Sour Cherries
You will most likely get your cherries by the market basket. I get mine in a bucket of water because they are shaken off the tree for commercial use rather than picked by hand. Either way you are going to want to give them a quick rinse with cold water to clean them off.
Once the cherries are washed the fun begins. Pitting.
Last year I lamented that I did not have a pitter and had channel my inner MacGyver and improvise with a ballpoint pen. I was prepared this year and actually bought a pitter, but I think my pitter missed the mark. I bought a single pitter. For the quantity I was dealing with I could’ve used something a little bigger. I have my sights set on this one for next year:
My five-gallon bucket full of cherries took me about 3 hours to pit. I know it sounds like drudgery, but is not actually that bad if you find a good movie to watch while you do it. Hello Lifetime!
Once the cherries are pitted all you need to do is put them in freezer bags. I measure mine out, and place 3 cups in a quart freezer bag. This amount of cherries per bag works well for me, my favorite cherry pie filling recipe calls for 6 cups of sour cherries, and I need about half that for a cherry danish for kuchen.
The pitting process creates a ton of juice, try to distribute the juice evenly to the bags of cherries. The extra liquid will offer some protection from freezer burn, and it also good in pies.
Don’t forget to label and date your cherries before you put them in the freezer. I like to lay my packages of cherries flat on a cookie sheet so I can stack them up neatly in my freezer once they are frozen solid.