Two years ago we had the opportunity to pick 10 gallons of cherries for free at an orchard up on Flathead Lake. I spent a day in the kitchen pitting 10 gallons of cherries. By the end of the day, I was so exhausted we just packed the cherries into gallon size plastic zip bags and stuck them in the freezer. Little did I know, that was the perfect way for us to preserve them!
Over the last two years we used those cherries a couple times a week in homemade smoothies. I made an occasional cherry crisp and we even made huckleberry cherry jam with some. Believe or not, those 10 gallons of cherries lasted us until this spring. That’s almost two years! This year a couple people with sweet cherry trees gave us cherries. We had about a gallon total. Nowhere near the plethora of cherries we had two summers ago, but enough for us to preserve.
Washing and Pitting Cherries
The cherries we were given were sprayed with a pesticide. It is really hard to find any cherries in this area that haven’t been sprayed. I learned a couple years ago about a great way to help remove the pesticide residue from the surface of the fruit. Place the fruit in a sink filled with three parts water and to one part vinegar. Let the fruit soak in the water vinegar solution for at least 15 minutes. Then rinse them well and they’re ready to go!
I dug our trusty cherry pitter out of the cupboard and got to work. Until two summers ago, I always pitted cherries by hand. I would use a knife to cut the cherry in half and pop out the pit. This is grueling work when you have more than a handful of cherries!
We invested in this cherry pitter two years ago and it has been a blessing to have when it comes to pitting cherries! I’ve found that this thing works great on small size cherries. Large, soft cherries occasionally have a miss with the pitter. My guess is I found about five misses out of 100 cherries which I don’t think is too bad!
The other thing I like about this cherry pitter is that it has a little compartment below that collects all the pits. This makes it easy to collect them all and make homemade cherry pit syrup. We were skeptical about this cherry pitter since it is mostly plastic, but after pitting 10 lbs of cherries with this baby it still works like a charm! Pitting cherries can be a bit messy. It never fails that some red cherry juice will go flying during the process. Just keep this in mind and make sure you wipe down any surrounding cabinets or walls before the cherry juice dries on!
Like I mentioned earlier, we found that freezing cherries is the easiest way for our family to preserve cherries based on how we like to use them. Two years ago we just packed all the whole cherries, minus the pits, into bags and froze them. When we use them in smoothies, I always cut them in half to make it easier for our immersion blender to chop them up.
This year I decided that I would cut the cherries in half before I froze them. This will make it easier for us to use them in the long run. It also helped me find those few missed pits that wreak havoc on the blender blade when making a smoothie!
Once all the cherries were pitted and cut in half, I packed them into sandwhich size plastic zip bags. Then I laid them flat in the freezer. Now they’ll be ready for us to use all winter long!
If you’re looking for more ways to preserve cherries, a fellow Montana blogger, Homespun Seasonal Living, wrote about 5 Ways to Preserve Sweet Cherries. Preserving cherries now is a great way to put up some of these delicious summer treats to eat throughout the long, cold Montana winters!
How do you preserve cherries?