Family Living Focus:Cherry Time!
Posted: June 24, 2011
Family Living Focus: Cherry Time!
It is that time of year when sweet and sour cherries are on the market. In Franklin and Adams Counties, local roadside markets will provide the freshest supply of this locally grown fruit. There is nothing better than a bowl of freshly washed cherries to add a serving of fruit to any meal, even breakfast. It really is amazing how many children have never experienced eating a fresh cherry and spitting out the pit!
Cherries can be divided into two groups – sour and sweet. Each can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways, not only as a dessert or snack, but as an ingredient in a main dish or main dish accompaniment. Understanding some of the basics about cherries will help you better utilize the plump gems that we are so fortunate to have grown locally fresh at this time of the year.
Selection: Fresh sweet cherries should be firm, plump, bright and glossy, with a full red or purple color and sweet taste. Degree of darkness depends on the variety and some can even be predominately white with a blush of red. Sour cherries are smaller than sweet cherries and should be firm, bright and uniformly red. Avoid purchasing over mature cherries that are soft, dull, seeping or shriveled.
Storage: Cherries are highly perishable and should be refrigerated as soon as possible. Sort cherries carefully and place loosely in a shallow container so that air can circulate. The weight of the cherries on top should not crush those on the bottom. Wash cherries just before using them. For the highest quality, fresh cherries should be stored only one or two days.
Yield: Due to variables, such as moisture content, size and variety, it is impossible to recommend specific quantities to buy.
The following recommendations are approximations:
1 lb. fresh cherries = approximately 2 cups pitted berries
12 lbs. sweet cherries = approximately 1 peck
15 lbs. sour cherries = approximately 1 peck
17 ½ lbs makes a 7 quart canner load
Nutrition: Cherries contain vitamins A, C, and some of the B vitamins, as well as some minerals, especially potassium.
Freezing Procedures: Sweet cherries are great to freeze as IQF (Individual Quick Frozen). Wash and pat dry and place a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, place cherries in a freezer proof zip-lock bag and store for later use. These little gems are great to eat when partially thawed or can be dropped into fruit salad. Children love these crystallized berries that make a great snack.
Sour or sweet cherries can be frozen as a dry pack or syrup pack. To make a dry pack, mix 2/3 cup dry sugar per quart of sour cherries, or 1/3 cup sugar per quart for sweet cherries. To make a syrup pack, mix and dissolve 2 ½ cups sugar in 4 cups of water for sour cherries; mix 1 ¼ cups sugar in 4 cups of water for sweet cherries. Add 1 cup syrup to each quart of prepared cherries. Package in
pint or quart freezer bags, leaving 3 to 4 inches from their tops. Squeeze out air, leaving 1-inch headspace, seal, label, and freeze. Before freezing, bags may be inserted into reusable rigid plastic freezer containers for added protection against punctures and leakage.
Canning Procedures: Both sweet and sour cherries can be canned using proper procedures. Cherries in jars may be covered with your choice of water, apple or white grape juice, or more commonly with a very light , light , or medium syrup. A medium syrup is suggested for sour cherries, and a very light syrup for sweet cherries. Pit, if desired, prior to canning. If preserved unpitted, prick skins on opposite sides with a clean needle or toothpick to prevent splitting in processing. Cherries may be preserved as a hot pack or raw pack, as desired. Process jars in a boiling water bath or pressure canner for the specified time.
Regardless of your use of sweet and sour cherries, don’t let this short season fruit pass you by because before long they will not be available except in the frozen or canned form and it will be a year’s wait to get local fresh cherries again.
Mary Ann K. Oyler is the Penn State Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator serving the Southeast Region and located in Franklin County. Penn State is an affirmative action, equal opportunity University.
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