Here are some easy ways to preserve cherries, including how to get cherries in bulk and equipment to process and preserve them – canning, dehydrating, freezing, recipes and more! Cherries are a swift crop – one day ripe, the next day gone. Save those tasty treats for later in the year by learning a few simple ways to preserve cherries.
To learn more DIYs and self-sufficient helps, be sure to read the Homestead Kitchen chapter of The Do It Yourself Homestead. Don’t have your own copy? No worries, we wrote one just for you here! To learn more about the book, simply click below. To request a free sample from the book, just email me at Tessa@homeseadlady.com.
Preparing Cherries to Preserve
We’ll be talking about several ways to preserve cherries, including:
Before you can preserve them, though, cherries will require washing and pitting. This is true of any stone fruit, but cherry pits are small and a little more tedious to remove. I recommend you purchase a cherry pitter to make the job quicker and easier.
To Pit Cherries with a Pitter
- Place the cherry directly underneath the nose of the pitter. Be sure it’s centered.
- Follow the instructions for your pitter, but generally speaking at this point you depress the nose of the pitter into the cherry.
- The fill will be ejected. Sometimes it will stick to the flesh of the cherry, so be sure to look over the cherry before putting it into your “pitted” pile.
- Place the cherries in a bowl to catch all the juice that will begin to seep from the pitted cherries. You don’t want to waste a single drop.
Reserve cherry pits to make:
- Cherry pit heating pads with Joybilee Farm.
- Make cherry pit vinegar, along with a host of other things, with Purposeful Pantry.
Ways to Preserve Cherries
First, we’ll cover canning and the different ways you can preserve whole cherries and also items like cherry jam.
Then, we’ll talk about dehydrating, both whole cherries and fruit leather.
Finally, we touch on freezing whole cherries.
Canning to Preserve Cherries
As with most fruit, cherries can be preserved in a water bath canner, which takes a lot less time than a pressure cooker. There are several options and ways to can cherries:
- Canning whole cherries with Simply Canning.
- Practical Self Reliance can teach you how to can cherry pie filling.
- Learn to can cherry jam or jelly in a smaller batch to start with from Grow a Good Life.
If you’d like to learn how to have perfect and tasty jams every time, I highly recommend this little booklet. It’s NOT intimidating in the least – something I sometimes don’t like about big canning books. Too much of a good thing. Fiercely DIY Guide to Jams is the perfect place to start with jams and jellies.
Cherry Jam That Doesn’t Set
If you happen to have a jar of jam that doesn’t set up for some reason, you can simply use it in other ways. For example:
- “Ice Cream Topping” is the fancy name I usually give to that one batch of jam that refuses to set up.
- Loose jams can also be used in dump cakes, cobblers, and as cake topping.
- They also mix wonderfully well into morning oatmeal or yogurt.
Dehydrating to Preserve Cherries
Dehydrating is something I highly recommend you do with cherries. Wow, are dried cherries good in salads and breads or straight out of your hand!
How to Dehydrate Cherries:
- Dehydrator – Chris Dalziel has a whole book about dehydrating foods successfully and she can teach you how to dry cherries in a dehydrator easily.
- Oven – The Redheaded Baker explains how to dehydrate cherries in the oven.
- Solar Oven – Here’s our article on how to dehydrate apple slices in a solar oven but you can apply it to cherries.
- Freeze Dryer – There are a number of foods that freeze dry well, and cherries are certainly among them.
If you have cherries that are still good but are a little on the soft side, don’t despair! Use them to make cherry fruit leather that your kids will love.
Follow these instructions for making fruit leather, replacing apricots for cherries.
How to Use Dehydrated Cherries
Keep dehydrated cherries for up to a year in a cool, dark place. If they last that long. We end up going through our stash way before then.
Use dehydrated cherries:
- As a quick snack or in the lunch box
- Added to home-popped popcorn
- On top of homemade ice cream
- Into the kid’s homemade trail mix
- Tossed into cold breakfasts and added to baked oatmeal
- Added to smoothies, curries and fruit crisps
Freezing and Cooking
Freezing is a simple way to temporarily preserve cherries. If freezing is all you have the time for, Purposeful Pantry can teach you how to freeze cherries successfully.
Once frozen, cherries can be used in:
- Smoothies & Popsicles
- Pie filling
- Cakes & pies
- Muffins and scones
To Cook With Cherries, try:
- Chocolate Cherry Sauce from Melissa K Norris.
- Farm Girl in the Making can teach you how to make Cherry Salsa.
- Make a Clean Eating Healthy Cherry Pie with The Gracious Pantry – nothing wrong with a classic!
All these recipes can be made with dehydrated or freeze dried whole cherries, FYI.
Which Sweetener to Use?
For food preservation in the past, we’ve used:
- succanat or coconut sugar
- raw sugar
We no longer use regular table sugar, though it works.
All these sweeteners have their merits. (Except table sugar which should never be consumed by humans. Or lab rats. Or street rats.)
Be aware that succanat and coconut sugar impart a caramel flavor, which is not a bad thing at all. Just be aware.
Where to Find Cherries in Bulk
Grow Your Own
The best way to insure that you have a large harvest of cherries is to grow them yourself. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- To learn how to plant a Cherry Tree Guild, ala permaculture, from Tenth Acre Farm.
- A great book for anyone with orchards of any size is this one – it includes anything you’ll ever need to know about maintaining fruit trees in a backyard setting.
A Word on Worms
Cherries tend to get worms something fierce. Accept that and move on. I’m an organic grower, so stuff like that doesn’t freak me out nearly as much as some other things do.
However, no one likes to dig worms out of their preserves; its just not appetizing. There are lots of methods of control:
- organic spray
- more spray
- more lures
- nuclear blast
Try Chickens for Cherry Worm Control
All last year, I ran my chickens in my orchard hoping that they’d help keep down emerging nasty bugs from turning into adult moths and flies come spring. The chickens took care of our emerging worms! However, the chickens couldn’t patrol my neighbors orchard, so this was only partly effective.
Consequently, we lost all our yellow cherries to worms (although the birds don’t bother much because of their color). We’ve had some worms in our sour cherries (with no spray) and there were some in the sweet cherries (with pheromone lures). However, we just picked them out and gave them to the chickens who were very appreciative.
My three year old kept calling them cute – “Look, mamma, I found another little worm; isn’t he cuuuuute?!”
Uh, yeah, adorable, Sweetie – now squish him.
Bottom line, nothing is perfect, but ripe cherries come as close as you can expect to get on earth and the chickens can help keep them worm-free-er.
Don’t Want to Grow Your Own Cherries?
If you don’t want to mess with growing cherries, never fear! I have two options for you!
One: Grow other small fruits like berries , rather than cherries.
Two: Try U-pick farms as an economical solution, if you live where cherry trees grow.
(If you don’t live in an area where cherries grow and can’t find any in bulk for a reasonable price, I suggest you pick a different fruit to preserve. There’s not sense fretting over what can’t be. Try blueberries, strawberries, currants or elder berries instead.)
U-pick Cherry Orchards
U-Pick enterprises are such a great idea, in my opinion. If you want to save a bit of money by picking product yourself go find a farm near you at www.pickyourown.org. Even though we have a small orchard at home, my family LOVEs to go to these places.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of farmer’s markets and of large, family gardens. However, there’s something exciting about u-pick enterprises. There’s a unique charm to meeting family farmers and scuttling up their trees and orchard ladders.
My kids think the whole thing is one big scavenger hunt and I must admit that us grown ups get caught up in the excitement, too. My children are used to being hauled thither and yon for a “picking experience” and they’re good sports about toting home so many pounds of fruit that we spend the next several days figuring out ways to preserve cherries.
Get the Kids Involved
Growing up, we had two huge cherry trees in our backyard. We spent several weeks in late spring hand-pitting hundreds of cherries with only a knife. That’s right – a knife and our little hands did all the work. The mounds of cherries would slowly disappear as we laughed and complained together; we were pittin’ machines!
As an adult, I’ve graduated to a hand-held cherry pitter and even a cherry stoner machine. (As an old Californian, I always laugh when I read “cherry stoner” – they’re really mellow cherries, man). The large, Bing-type cherries fit really well in my cherry stoner machine. My sour cherries are a little too small to make the stoner as effective, so I use the hand-held pitter.
Remember not to throw out those pits!
Sour Cherry or Sweet Cherry?
Sweet cherries are the cherries most people are familiar with. They’re large, sweet and typically the variety sold in stores. They’re the most commonly grown and most widely recognized. Bing and Tulares are two common varieties. Sweet cherries can be eaten out of hand and are also wonderful in cakes, custards, ice cream and pies.
Sour cherries, which sometimes called “pie cherries”, are typically too tart to be eaten out of hand. However, they make wonderful preserves jams and jellies, as well as pie filling. Sour cherries have just the right balance of tart to blend in with whatever sweeten you choose to add.
They are smaller than sweet cherries, so you’ll need more of them for baking into a pie. One really neat thing about sour cherries, if you’re growing them in your backyard, is that they’re self fertile so you only need to plant one to get fruit.
More Cherry Recipes
Don’t dismiss cooking as a way to use up those delectable cherries! Of course we don’t want to wait until the fall to taste the cherries of summer!