How to Store Cherries to Keep Them at Their Best
Plump, sweet cherries are one of life's quiet but great pleasures. Eating a bowlful at a sitting is not difficult. Cherry season flies by in summer, and though it is distressingly brief, these glorious little stone fruits are becoming increasingly more available during the winter months thanks to imported produce. That's why carrying home a bagful of cherries feels decadent, and it makes sense that all of us would want to store them properly so that we enjoy them for as long as possible.
To that end, what's the best way to store your cherries? Should they be refrigerated or left on the counter? And, perhaps even more importantly, when we do spot cherries at the store, how do we go about choosing good ones?
What's the Right Way to Store Cherries?
While it may be tempting to display a beautiful bowl of cherries on a countertop (or in another photo-worthy spot), that is the worst way keep these precious fruits fresh. At room temperature, cherries deteriorate quickly: They will remain plump for just a couple of days before losing their sheen and turning flaccid. Instead, keep the cherries in the refrigerator. They are curiously impervious to being stored uncovered, so you do not have to wrap or seal them—in fact, if you do keep cherries tightly sealed, moisture will accumulate and this will hasten their demise.
If a bowl is unwieldy in your refrigerator, store the cherries in an uncovered and more ergonomic container in a crisper drawer. An open bag will also work just fine. Whatever you do, don't place anything else on top of them: These beauties need to breathe. Kept uncovered and dry, cold cherries will keep fresh for at least a week, and sometimes much longer.
When Should You Wash Cherries?
Do not wash your cherries before storing them in the refrigerator: The moisture that lingers in the hollow at their stem-ends (which are difficult to dry thoroughly) will encourage mold or rot. Before transferring them to the refrigerator pick them over and remove any fruit that is damaged. If the cherries have stems, do not remove them until you are ready to eat the fruit.
Do be sure to wash your cherries before eating them—but only just before. They are usually sprayed and a thorough washing will help. Swoosh them in a large bowlful of cold water, rubbing their skins with your fingers. Then rinse them in a colander under a running tap.
How to Buy Good Cherries at the Store or Farmers' Market
Fresh cherries are plump and shiny, never dull. When choosing cherries to buy, cast your eye critically across those shiny bodies. You are looking for a taught, glossy skin, for smooth fruit, for no splits, no pockmarks, and no wrinkles. Sour cherries have softer bodies than others—that is normal. Rainier cherries, yellow with blushed cheeks, can sometimes have brown flecks on their skins, but this does not affect their quality. And if you are choosing red cherries, an evenly saturated color can indicate a good fruit.
Can You Freeze Cherries?
Cherries freeze well, which can extend the pleasure of that brief season or make the most of a farmers' market glut. They can be frozen with or without pits. Bear in mind that thawed, softer cherries are harder to pit, unless you work them through a food mill. Once thawed, you'll find that they are wonderful for baking, cooking, jamming, and ice cream.