Ingredient Spotlight: Sour Cherries
Welcome to the second installment of the ingredient spotlight series. A few weeks ago, we talked all things asparagus. Today, we’re talking cherries. Specifically, sour cherries! Those beautiful, bright-red cherries that appear at farmer’s markets only a few weeks out of the year.
Honestly, I rarely came across sour cherries when I lived on the East Coast. In fact, this sour cherry berry crisp was my first time baking with them! We’re lucky enough to find fresh Michigan sour cherries in the Chicago area and I always try my best to take full advantage because the season doesn’t last long.
While you can certainly snack on sour cherries, their tart flavor and lower sugar content lend themselves well to baking (or jamming) applications, where you have better control over sweetness levels.
There are three major varieties of sour cherries available: Montmorency (shown above), Morello, and Early Richmond. They all vary in color (Montmorency are very bright red) and tartness. Fun fact? Sour cherries are light sensitive and will actually darken in color when exposed to artificial or natural light.
Unlike regular cherries, sour cherries are slightly softer, so I try my best to use them within a day or two of buying them. Like any cherry, you want to seek out firm-fleshed cherries with the stems attached as those will hold up the longest. Avoid cherries without stems, as they will become mushy more quickly.
Cherries should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life. Unlike other stone fruit, cherries do not improve in flavor or texture once picked, so it is best to consume them as soon as possible. If you have a sour cherry surplus? Remove the pits, lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet, freeze, and transfer to a Ziploc bag for another time.
My best advice if you’re looking to bake and cook with cherries? Invest in a good-quality cherry pitter! Like, right now. Before you have to wait another year for fresh cherries.
I resisted for about 27 years of life and love mine. They only cost twelve dollars and it is the only thing coming between you and homemade cherry pie (or any cherry dessert requiring you to pit a large number of cherries in one sitting).
There are a million and one ways to “hack” pit cherries, but they’re all quite messy and cumbersome. Trust me.
If you don’t enjoy pitting cherries (or are just feeling lazy – don’t blame you!), one of the most traditional desserts that you can prepare is a classic French cherry clafoutis.
Traditionally, cherry clafoutis are made with unpitted cherries. When cooked or heated, cherry pits develop a strong almond flavor, which is what lends clafoutis its signature taste.
More sour cherry recipe ideas:
- Sour Cherry Crumb Bars (Washington Post)
- Perfect Sour Cherry Jam (Serious Eats)
- Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt (Lottie + Doof)
- Sour Cherry Pie (Serious Eats)
For more Ingredient Spotlight posts and cooking guides, click here.