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blog-pie cherries1

You can never go overboard when buying sour cherries—what my grandmothers would have called pie cherries. Their season is ephemeral, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. So this July, I’ve been buying quarts and quarts. (Quick market tip: Cherries are always sold ripe; green, pliable stems signify freshness.)

We’ve enjoyed some of my haul in sour cherry lemonade cocktails or a pie (for a favorite recipe, click here), if it’s not too hot to turn on the oven. The rest, though, I’ve frozen for the winter. A spiced cherry-cranberry chutney (or perhaps cherry-quince) will be nice with roast pork loin or duck around the holidays, for instance. And although the morality tale about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree is actually a morality myth, when our first president’s birthday comes around in February, I’d much rather celebrate with a bright-flavored pie instead of a sales-weekend shopping spree. I’ll bet there will still be enough fruit left in the freezer to be cooked down into a sauce or compote to serve with Sam’s flourless chocolate cake or spoon over ice cream.

It’s always tempting to freeze the cherries whole and worry about the pits at a later date, but trust me, just get it done. Pitting pie cherries doesn’t take all that much time, and because they’re softer than sweet cherries, you don’t need a cherry pitter—a gadget that’s impossible to find in the kitchen drawer when you need it, anyway. Just remove each cherry’s stem and gently squeeze out the pit from that end, or coax it out with a straightened paper clip. Always work over a bowl to catch the juices and wear an apron or old T-shirt to field any (indelible) juice stains.

If you’ve earmarked the cherries for preserves or sauces, just spoon them with their juices into ziptop freezer bags and chuck them into the freezer. But if you’d rather keep them as whole as possible (they’re prettier in a pie that way), spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze them until they’re as hard as marbles; then bag them and refreeze. They won’t stick together, and later you can open the bag, take out however many you want, and pop the bag back into the freezer.

For years, I’ve frozen cherries on baking sheets lined with paper towels—I was worried they’d pick up a metallic flavor. But this year, for the first time, Sam saw my prep. He was aghast, but tried to conceal it. “What the—um, look at all the juice you’re wasting. The paper towel absorbs it. And then you throw it away,” he said. He stopped and took a deep, calming breath. “I would use parchment instead.”

How mortifying. And educational. After I bagged the frozen cherries, the parchment was pink with little shards of cherry ice, which I should have added to the juice that accumulated during pitting. (Strained, that went into the freezer, too.) Instead, I collected the spoonful of fragments and fed it to Sam. He deserved it.

blog-pie cherries3

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