Fresh Sour Cherries in Bowl

We’re sharing another ingredient spotlight post! Today, we’re talking cherries. Specifically, sour cherries. Those beautiful, bright red cherries appear at farmer’s markets only a few short weeks of the year.

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 to find fresh Michigan sour cherries in the Chicago area. The season doesn’t last long, so you have to take advantage when you find them.

While you can certainly snack on sour cherries, their tart flavor and low sugar content lend themselves well to baking (or jamming) applications, where you have better control over sweetness levels.

Sour Cherries

Sour Cherry Varieties:

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.

How to Pick and Store Sour Cherries

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.

Sour Cherries

The Easiest Way to Pit Cherries:

If you enjoy baking and cooking with fresh berries, I highly recommend investing in a good-quality cherry pitter!

I resisted for 27 years of my life and love my cherry pitter. They are affordable and it is the only thing coming between you and homemade cherry pie (or any dessert that calls for a large number of cherries). While there are a million and one “hacks” for pitting cherries, they’re quite messy and cumbersome.

The More You Know: 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.

Sour Cherry Crisp

Sour Cherry Recipe Ideas:

For more inspiration, visit our other Ingredient Spotlight posts.