Learn how to freeze cherries fresh from the garden so that you can enjoy them all winter long or simply whenever you want!
We recently bought a 9 acre farm that came stocked full of hay fields and mature fruit trees. Among them, cherries were the most popular.
I will admit that I had never eaten an actual cherry before moving here. I am 45 years old and had never eaten a cherry. I’ve also never had a blackberry or raspberry, but that is another story. I did eat a blueberry once. I’m the weird one who has always stayed away from fruit. I love veggies, but fruit is not on top of my list.
My son was standing on the roof picking cherries from the tree closest to my house and begged me to try one. So I did. And I have to say it was pretty tasty. My entire family is apparently cherry lovers.
So with 6 mature cherry trees and probably hundreds of thousands of cherries becoming ripe soon, we decided to start freezing and canning them. Now, it helps that we bought this 49 cubic foot freezer recently!
So lets get to it, shall we?
How to Freeze Cherries
Believe it or not, freezing fresh cherries is actually very easy. It might be time consuming, but it is still quite simple!
If you have a cherry tree, or you visit a “You Pick” farm, or simply pick up a huge bunch from the store, you can easily learn how to freeze them!
If you are going to be picking our own cherries, then get picking! It just so happens that the cherry tree that ripens first is the one closest to our house. In order to reach the mid level we either stand on the roof or sit in the bucket of the tractor and we STILL can’t even get near the top.
We don’t use cutters, we just pick by hand. That is part of the fun! I find that it is the easiest to grab the base where a bunch of cherries are coming out of and removing the base. This will give you several cherries at once. It doesn’t always work out this way and half the time I get singletons!
I bring a few bowls out there with me depending on how many I want to pick, but usually I pick about 3 bowls the size of the one below.
I have a sink style colander that I bring outside with me. I prefer not to wash my cherries in the sink as there is usually dirt and general gunk that is on them. We have a septic tank here and I try to minimize the food that goes down the drain.
So after I am done picking, I put a bowl at a time into the colander and give it a rinse with the hose.
I’ll use my hands to lightly agitate the cherries to make sure they are well rinsed. Inevitably I miss some dirt and insects. It’s all good though as I can get most of it.
Once the cherries are picked and rinsed, I bring them in the house. The kiddos and I remove the stems next. My 6 year old and I make a game out of it and try to find the “butt cherries” (the ones that look like a butt) and he likes to find the “camera” ones which are circles with a perfect hole in the center. I guess to him they remind him of a camera.
We sit and laugh and use this time as family time!
Now, I also use this opportunity to pick out the bad cherries. These are the ones that are too small, bruised, or split open already.
While the kids and I are removing stems, my hubby does the pitting. We have a pitter that has a repository for more than one cherry which helps speed up the process a bit. I got mine at Bi-Mart, but Amazon has one like it here.
It still only pits one at a time, but you can at least load it up!
Once the cherries are pitted, you line a baking sheet with wax paper (parchment paper works too). Lay the cherries in a single layer. Try not to have them on top of each other. Mine end up touching on the sides because I don’t have the patience to manipulate each cherry perfectly. This is not an issue.
Next you will want to place your baking sheets into the freezer in a single layer. Do not stack them. If you don’t have a lot of freezer room, then you may need to split this up into multiple days and do all that you can in a single day.
You can pick them all in one day and simply store them in the fridge until you are ready for a new batch. I keep the stems on until I am ready to do the entire process.
I like to freeze them for a minimum of 24 hours. This is usually long enough to give them a good freeze! My power actually went out in the night when making this particular batch, and all was still good!
You will want to get moving onto the next step fairly quickly, however, as they do thaw fast!
Freeze Cherries in Airtight Container
I use a vacuum sealer to seal my cherries. I put them in small (ish) bags and medium bags so that either they can be a single serving or can feed a few kiddos for a snack.
If frozen or stored properly, they can usually stay fresh for up to 6 months (or longer for a deep freeze). Getting all the air out is essential for their freshness, however.
I also try to get the bags reasonably flat so that I can stack them and take up less freezer space.
Below is about the size of a typical bag.
I write the month and year as well as what the contents of the bag are on each bag so that I can clearly read it. This helps when you are freezing a variety of fruits and veggies.
What If I Don’t Have a Vacuum Sealer?
I’ve heard of people using the roll method where they tightly roll a bag to get the air out and then seal it.
Another method is to use a straw. Add cherries to a ziplock bag, insert a straw and then ziplock it tightly with only the straw poking out. Remove air using a straw, quickly pull out the straw and seal.
Neither of these methods will get you the results of a good vacuum sealer, but they are good secondary options.
What To Do With Frozen Cherries?
There are tons of things you can do with frozen cherries.
Use them in smoothies in place of ice cubes to get the chill factor with flavor!
Thaw them and bake with them.
And the list goes on!
Yummy Cherry Recipes
All the below recipes are gluten free since that is how I eat. Some are even low carb!
- Baking Sheet
- Wax Paper
- Storage Bags
- Pick cherries fresh (or buy them from the store).
- Wash cherries and remove stems.
- Pit cherries using a cherry pitter.
- Lay flat on a baking sheet(s) lined with wax paper.
- Freeze for 24 hours or until fully frozen.
- Store in airtight storage bags. I use a vacuum sealer so they last longer (see post above with pictures).
You can leave the pit in the cherries I've been told, but I prefer to do the hard work ahead of time so that when I thaw them out they are ready to pop in my mouth!