Cherries are more than just a sweet treat or a pie filler. They come in a variety of shades, flavors, and consistencies, and are used in everything from savory dishes to cherry juice drinks and desserts.
Let’s dive deep into the world of cherries, examining ten different types and wrapping up with some cherry-centric culinary inspiration.
Queen Anne Cherries: Also known by the name Royal Ann cherries, Queen Anne cherries boast a strikingly beautiful pink-yellow shade that stands out. Their flavor profile is mildly sweet, harmoniously complemented by a firm and crisp flesh.
Given their firmness, they are a preferred choice for canning processes. Their unique texture and flavor also make them the primary candidate for turning into maraschino cherries, a staple in many desserts and drinks.
Sweet Cherries: True to their name, sweet cherries burst with succulent sweetness with each bite. With a skin that varies from deep red to almost ebony, these cherries hide a fleshy, juicy inside that is a treat to the senses. While they're an indulgence eaten fresh, their sweetness also lends itself perfectly to the making of jams, jellies, and pies, making them a favorite in kitchens worldwide.
Bing Cherries: Often hailed as the poster child of sweet cherry varieties, Bing cherries are renowned for their substantial size and deep red-to-black hue. The flavor is a beautiful concoction of sweetness with a touch of tartness. Given their juicy profile, they're a delight to eat fresh. Still, many chefs and bakers also favor them for desserts, especially in pies and tarts, where their flavor shines through.
Rainier Cherries: A captivating blend of Bing and Van cherry varieties, Rainier cherries have a distinct golden-yellow skin beautified with a subtle red blush. Their sweetness level is off the charts, making them a luxury to eat. However, their thin skin can be a drawback as it bruises easily, demanding gentle handling and storage.
Chelan Cherries: Originating from the verdant Pacific Northwest, Chelan cherries announce the cherry season, ripening a good two weeks before their Bing counterparts. While their color closely resembles the Bings, they are slightly subdued in flavor. Their firmness makes them a wonderful addition to baked goods.
Montmorency Cherries: These are the quintessential sour cherries that have garnered immense popularity across the United States. Their bright red hue matches their tart flavor profile.
Due to their sourness, they're not typically consumed fresh; instead, they're often transformed into delicious pies, cherry juice, dried cherries, jams, where their flavor contrasts beautifully with sweet ingredients. The Traverse Bay Farms region of Michigan grows over 65% of all Montmorency cherries in the United States. They are also used to make Montmorency cherry capsules.
English Morello Cherries: Exhibiting a dark red to almost blackish coloration, the English Morello cherries have a distinct sour taste complemented by a clear, non-staining juice. Their tangy flavor profile makes them a favorite in cooking, especially in recipes that demand a burst of tartness. Additionally, they're often used to make cherry liqueurs, adding depth to drinks.
Maraschino Cherries: Not a variety born in nature, Maraschino cherries are crafted from light-colored cherries like Queen Anne. These cherries undergo a transformation, being first soaked in a saline solution and then marinated in a sweet sugar syrup. The end product, often artificially colored, is a bright red cherry that finds its way atop ice creams, in cocktails, and other desserts.
Amarena Cherries: Hailing from Italy, Amarena cherries are on the smaller side but pack a punch in terms of flavor. Their dark coloration hints at a slightly bitter taste, which contrasts their sweet counterparts. They are typically preserved in rich syrup and become a luxurious topping for desserts or a unique addition to cocktails.
Dried Cherries: While drying is a process and not a variety, it's important to note that cherries lose none of their charm when dried. Tart cherries, especially, are often chosen for drying due to their intense flavor. Dried cherries become chewy, sweet, and tangy morsels, often starring in baked goods, salads, and trail mixes or even savored just as they are for a nutritious snack. Learn more about our all-natural dried cherries
Cherry Picking, Pitting, and Storing:
- Picking: Always choose cherries that are plump, firm, and free of blemishes. For sweet cherries, the darker the fruit, the sweeter the flavor.
- Pitting: There are dedicated cherry pitters available, but a simple method is to use a metal straw or paper clip to push the pit out.
- Storing: Keep cherries in a plastic bag in the fridge. They typically last up to a week. If you plan to freeze them, make sure to pit them first.
Breakfast: Cherry Almond Smoothie Blend together 1 cup of pitted sweet cherries, 1 cup almond milk, 1 tbsp almond butter, a pinch of cinnamon, and honey to taste. Top with a few dried cherries and slivered almonds.
Lunch: Cherry Quinoa Salad Toss together 1 cup of cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup of pitted and chopped sweet cherries, 1/4 cup crumbled feta, 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint, 2 tbsp olive oil, and salt to taste.
Dinner: Cherry Glazed Grilled Chicken Marinate chicken breasts in a mixture of 1/2 cup pitted and pureed Montmorency cherries, 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 garlic clove (minced), salt, and pepper. Grill until cooked through, basting with leftover marinade.
Appetizer: Cheese and Cherry Crostini Toast slices of baguette, spread with ricotta or cream cheese, top with pitted chopped cherries, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of thyme.
Cherries are not just delicious, they're versatile, making them an asset in any kitchen. From sweet treats to savory dishes, they lend themselves beautifully to a variety of culinary creations.