During the harvest season, the easiest way to preserve sour cherries is to pop the pitted cherries in the freezer. Frozen tart cherries have a lot of uses, but dried cherries have a lot of uses, too. Here’s how to dehydrate frozen cherries for a sweet treat.
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Cherries are one of those delicacies that I can’t believe I get to grow myself. Out of all the fruit I grow, I enjoy the flavor of the cherries the most. Yes, I even prefer my tart cherries over my strawberries! I was surprised to discover that pie cherries (at least from my ‘Northstar’ variety) are not as tart as the name suggests.
My favorite way to eat them is to simmer fresh or frozen (pitted) cherries on the stovetop with a tablespoon of water and a pinch of arrowroot powder. Stirred until warm, the heat mellows the tartness. The result is a sugar-free pie filling, perfect for adding to yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or eating straight from the spoon.
The only downfall I see to growing cherries is that they need pitted before they can be preserved–whether you’re freezing, dehydrating, or canning them. Getting a good cherry pitter is essential. I have the Oxo cherry pitter, which I received as a gift. It has great reviews, is inexpensive, and works fine. It’s pretty messy though–the kitchen is covered in cherry juice when I’m finished! This multiple cherry pitter is the one I had my eye on before I received the other as a gift. It also has good reviews and is the same price. I wonder how it compares? I’d love to know. Tell me about your cherry pitter in the comments below.
During the height of the harvest season, finding the time to pit all the cherries is enough of a commitment for me. Many people will go ahead with dehydrating or canning at this point (sour cherry jelly is divine!), but I like to pop them in the freezer and think about them later so I can get back to the garden. I freeze them in one pound increments in double freezer bags.
Once my freezer fills up, it’s time to pull out the frozen cherries.
Freezing the berries mellows the tartness, and the frozen cherries have a lot of uses. We love to make smoothies with them, and simmering frozen cherries on the stove will mellow the flavor even more. At this point you can transform them into all kinds of things. I use them in fun recipes like this amazing paleo cherry pie, but here are some more ideas.
You can even go on to make jams and jellies with frozen-then-thawed cherries.
How to Dehydrate Frozen Cherries
Drying cherries makes them more shelf stable and reduces the risk of losing your frozen harvest should the power go out. Even if you don’t grow your own, you might come across a sale on frozen cherries and want to make the most out of your bargain find.
To dry frozen cherries in a dehydrator:
- Pull cherries out of the freezer a few days ahead of time and let them thaw in the fridge.
- On the day of dehydrating, bring the cherries to room temperature by sitting them out on the counter (in their ziplock bags) for a few hours.
- Squeeze as much of the juice from the cherries as you can. Now you have the most amazing cherry juice! Drink straight, add to smoothies, or pop it back into the freezer until you are ready to make some cherry margaritas, cherry punch, or cherry lemonade. Squeezing the juice out first will reduce the drying time.
- Spread the cherries out on your dehydrator trays. The cherries will dry more evenly if they aren’t touching one another. I use an Excalibur dehydrator with silicone non-stick sheets.
- According to my copy of the Preserve it Naturally: A Complete Guide to Food Dehydration book, fresh cherries would take 13-21 hours to dehydrate. However, frozen-then-thawed-then-squeezed cherries take only about 10 hours to dehydrate in my kitchen. Drying time will vary depending on the altitude and humidity levels in your area, i.e. it may take longer on a rainy day. Start checking the cherries for doneness about halfway through the recommended drying time. They’ll feel similar to the consistency of raisins when done.
Using Dried Cherries
Dried cherries have a lot of uses. They are portable and make a great snack on their own. Add them to tea blends, spruce up homemade granola or make a trail mix with dried cherries and your favorite roasted nuts.
To learn more about growing cherries, see some of my other articles:
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: Have you ever dried frozen fruit? How did it go? How did you use it?