Fresh cherries add a sweet touch to mealtime

Berries offer plenty of summer taste for everything from homemade beverages to entrees and desserts

    Cherry trees are dotted with bright red fruit this time of year, and a plentiful harvest means there will be tasty salads, desserts and main dishes — as well as a few cherries for freezing and canning — for all.
    Interestingly, tart cherries are primarily used to bake sweet dishes such as pies and tarts and to make preserves, while sweet cherries are best eaten by the handful. They also pair well with nuts and vanilla and certain roasted meats.
    The average tart cherry tree produces about 7,000 cherries annually — enough for 28 pies — although the many birds that also enjoy the cherries bring down the total harvest significantly.
    Both sweet and tart cherries are grown locally. A good source of fiber and vitamin C, cherries, especially the tart varieties, contain antioxidants that might help fight cancer and heart disease, according to research by Michigan State University.
    It takes six to eight pounds of fresh tart cherries to make just one pound of dried cherries.
    When selecting cherries, remember that sweet cherries should have firm, but not hard, flesh, while sour cherries should be medium-firm. The darker the color, the sweeter the cherry.
    Avoid cherries with cuts and bruises or stale, dry stems. Cherries with the stems intact will have a longer shelf life.
    Store unwashed cherries in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash just before eating.
     Fresh cherries should be consumed within two to four days. They can be frozen but should be pitted first, otherwise they will take on an almond flavor from the pit.
    Freeze whole, pitted sweet cherries in 40% syrup (four cups water plus three cups sugar) with 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid or citrus juice added per quart of liquid.
    They may also be pitted and frozen without liquid in plastic bags with the air removed, or frozen on a cookie sheet and then pack in bags for long-term storage.
    To freeze sour cherries for pie filling, stir 3/4 cup of sugar into each quart of pitted, whole sour cherries. Pack in rigid airtight containers with 1/2-inch headspace or airtight bags. Frozen cherries will last 10 to 12 months.
    Following are cherry recipes from

Cherry Rosemary Sea Salt Foccacia

1-2/3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
4-1/4 cups flour, plus additional for kneading
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound cherries, clean and pitted
1-1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

    Stir together lukewarm (105 to 115 degrees) water and yeast in bowl of mixer and let stand about five minutes, until creamy. Add flour, 1/4 cup olive oil and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough forms. Knead about one minute in the bowl.
    Turn dough out onto a liberally floured surface and knead four to five minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise for 60 to 90  minutes, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature, until doubled in size.
    Generously oil a one-quart baking sheet. Press dough into a 15-by-10-inch rectangle on the baking sheet. Let dough rise, covered completely with a kitchen towel, about one hour, until doubled in size.
    Stir together rosemary and remaining oil. Make shallow indentations all over dough with your fingertips, then brush with rosemary oil, letting it pool in indentations. Gently push cherries into the indentations. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over focaccia and bake in middle of a 500-degree oven for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 450 degrees  and bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
    Immediately invert a rack over pan and flip focaccia onto rack, then turn right side up. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Velvet Cherry Sauce

4 pounds bing cherries, washed, pitted and stemmed
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Large strips of lemon zest from a whole lemon
1/4 cup sherry
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
Vanilla ice cream

    Cut cherries in half. Place half the cherry halves into a large saucepan and reserve the rest. Add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and sherry to saucepan and place over medium high heat for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, so cherries release their juices.
    Remove saucepan from the heat and remove the cherries and lemon zest with a slotted spoon. Place cherries in a strainer and press with the back of your spoon to release all the remaining juices.
    Pour juice into the saucepan, turn heat to medium and add nutmeg, honey and vanilla.  
    In a small bowl, combine water and cornstarch to create a slurry. Slowly whisk into the cherry sauce.  Bring to a low boil and let sauce thicken a bit. Remove from heat once it reaches the desired consistency.
    Add the butter and stir until melted. Place sauce in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface, and refrigerate for one hour.
    Combine remaining cherries with the cooled sauce and serve over vanilla ice cream. Store in an air-tight container for as long as a week in the refrigerator.

Cherry-Orange Sangria

1 750-milliliter bottle dry white wine
1-1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup Cointreau
Simple syrup
1 pound fresh cherries, pitted
2 cups red seedless grapes
2 plums, sliced into wedges
2 oranges, sliced in wedges
1 lime, sliced in wedges

    In a large pitcher, combine white wine, orange juice, brandy, Cointreau and simple syrup to taste. Stir well.
    Add cherries, grapes and plums. Chill for 12 to 16 hours. Just before serving, stir and add oranges and limes.
    Fill six glasses halfway full with ice. Use a slotted spoon to add fruit from the pitcher to each glass. Pour liquid over ice and fruit and serve.
    To make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Cool.


Cherry Pie Cups

For crust:
Two pie crusts
For filling:
2-1/2 cups pitted and halved fresh sweet cherries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
For topping:
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk or cream
Coarse sugar, optional
Whipped cream and blueberries, optional

    Roll out the pie crust until it’s a bit thinner, then let it rest about 15 minutes. Cut into eight, five-inch rounds, re-rolling the scraps, if necessary. Place the rounds in eight muffin cups that are coated with nonstick spray, pressing lightly.
    Place the filling ingredients in a medium bowl and toss. Divide the filling between the crust-lined cups.
    With the leftover pie crust scraps, cut out shapes and place atop the pie cups. Crimp the edges of the pie cups. Whisk the egg and milk together to make an egg wash and brush the pies lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Cover lightly with foil during baking if they brown too quickly. Pies should be lightly brown and the filling slightly bubbly.
    Remove the pies from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely or serve warm with whipped cream and blueberries, if desired.
    Makes eight pie cups.


Cherry-Coconut Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

1-1/2 cups whole cherries, pitted
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of half a lemon
2 cups heavy cream
14 ounces sweetened creme of coconut (not coconut milk)
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped

    Combine heavy cream, creme of coconut and milk in a large container with a pour spout. Stir well. Place container in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
    Place the cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-low heat. Cook about 10 minutes, breaking up the cherries with a wooden spoon as they soften. Remove from hot pan and let cool, then refrigerate.
    When all ingredients are cold, start the ice cream machine churning and pour cream-coconut mixture into the ice-cream maker. Once ice cream is frozen, add cherry mixture and chocolate chips. Churn just enough to combine, about one minute.
    Place ice cream in the freezer for at least four hours to harden.


Mixed Berry and Cherry Clafoutis

2 cups mixed berries, fresh or frozen
2 cups whole cherries, pits removed
2-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream

    Place eight one-cup heat proof dishes onto a baking sheet and into a 375-degree oven to preheat.
    Set aside eight tablespoons superfine sugar.
    In a large pouring vessel, whisk together milk, the remaining sugar, vanilla, eggs, salt and flour.
    Remove the heated dishes from the oven and divide the cherries and berries evenly between them. Sprinkle each dish with one tablespoon reserved superfine sugar, then evenly ladle the egg mixture over the fruit.Return the dished to the oven and bake on the baking sheet for 25 to 35 minutes, until the center isn’t runny and clafoutis are puffed up and golden brown.  
    Dust with powdered sugar and serve at room temperature with a dollop of sweet whipped cream.


Cinnamon-Clove Fresh Cherry Pie

For pie dough:
2-1/2 cups flour
1 cup cold butter, diced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup iced water
For filling:
2 pounds fresh, sweet pitted cherries, such as Bing
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

    Place filling ingredients in a large bowl and gently combine. Set aside.
    In the bowl of a food processor, place flour, butter and salt. Process about 30 seconds then, with the machine still running, begin adding water through the feed tube, one tablespoon at a time. Stop adding water once dough comes together in a ball.
    Divide dough in half and form two flat discs. Wrap each with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one to four hours.
    Place dough on a lightly floured cutting board. Roll out one disc to fit a 9-inch pie pan and line your dish with it. Let the dough hang over the edges about 1/2 inch. Place filling in the crust.
    Roll out second disc to the same size as the first. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 10 to 12 1/2-inch-wide strips of dough. Place on top of the pie, weaving into a lattice crust.
    Bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes, then turn heat to 375 degrees and bake another 40 minutes, until crust is slightly golden and juices are bubbling.
    Let cool completely before serving with vanilla ice cream.


Frozen Greek Yogurt Cherry Bites

1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 pounds fresh cherries, stems on
    In a small bowl, stir together yogurt and sugar. Holding the cherry stem, dip cherry into yogurt until completely covered. Place dipped cherries onto a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining cherries. Freeze for 20 minutes, until yogurt is frozen but cherries are still somewhat soft. Serve immediately.



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