Cherries are only in season for a short time each year, but they freeze beautifully. Here’s how to freeze cherries, so you can enjoy them year-round.
This method works for both sweet and sour cherries, and can be used to freeze any amount of cherries.
If you’re pressed for time, you could just throw your cherries in the freezer with their stems and pits intact, and call it good, but you’ll save yourself a bunch of time and work later, if you stem and pit them first.
Since frozen cherries can be used to make pies, jam, cakes, breads, smoothies, ice cream and all other manner of sweet and savory tastiness, I prefer to freeze my cherries in their raw state. This allows me to sweeten and spice them to suit each recipe.
For the best results, freeze your cherries within a few days of picking or purchase; they deteriorate quickly.
How to Freeze Cherries Raw
What You’ll Need:
- A cherry pitter (a straw, chopstick or cake decorating tip will also work)
- Sheet pans
- Wax paper, parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat
- Freezer bags, or other freezer-safe storage containers
- A permanent marker (to label and date your bags)
- A kitchen scale (optional, but handy)
What You Do:
Wash, dry, stem and pit your cherries. I use an OXO cherry pitter to pit my cherries, but you can also use a sturdy straw, chopstick or cake decorating tip to do the job. Just insert your make-shift pitter in the stem end of the cherry, and push it through, until the pit pops out the other side.
This is a messy job, no matter what tool you use, so be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind staining.
Spread your pitted cherries out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. This will prevent them from sticking to the pan. I like to freeze one pound of cherries on each tray. This makes it easy to create one-pound bags of cherries for the freezer.
If you have a lot of cherries to freeze, just cover the cherries with another layer of wax paper or parchment, and stack another baking sheet on top of the first one. Keep stacking to maximize your freezer space.
Pro Tip: Save the juices that drain out of your pitted cherries, and use them to flavor drinks.
When you’re done, stick the baking sheets in the freezer for a few hours to freeze the cherries. This will allow the cherries to freeze individually, so they don’t stick together in clumps when you bag them.
Once your cherries are frozen, transfer them to freezer bags; squeeze out as much air as possible, to prevent freezer burn; then, label your bags with the type of cherry (sweet or sour) and amount (“X” cup/pounds). If you know what you’ll be using your cherries for, go ahead and divide your cherries into the amount you’ll need for your recipe(s). Otherwise, one-pound bags are really handy.
Frozen cherries can be stored indefinitely, but are best used within a year.
How to Measure Frozen Cherries
When accuracy matters, it’s best to measure frozen cherries by weight, rather than volume. While fresh and frozen cherries measure the same cup for cup, the same can not be said for frozen cherries that have been thawed. Since thawing softens fruit, thawed cherries takes up considerably less space.
If you’re working with a recipe that calls for cherries in cups, measure out your cherries, before you thaw them, or use these conversions to help you get the measurement right:
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cherries = 1 lb
- 2 – 2 ½ cups pitted fresh or frozen cherries = 1b
- 1 1/4 cups pitted and thawed frozen cherries = 1 lb
How to Use Frozen Cherries
If you’re using your cherries in a recipe that will be baked or cooked, there’s usually no need to thaw them first. Just extend the baking/cooking time a bit, and the cherries will thaw as the dish cooks.
For recipes that require thawed cherries, simply measure out the proper amount of frozen cherries, and stick them in the fridge overnight. You can also defrost them in the microwave, if you’re in a hurry.
More Uses for Fresh Cherries
Trying to use up a bumper crop of fresh cherries before they spoil? Check out this easy recipe for homemade maraschino cherries.