Life’s a bowl of cherries….

Cherry-PitterFresh cherries are my favorite fruit to snack on because there is a lot of tactile mouth work involved. I love the just sweet, slightly tart taste and how my tongue turns magenta after a few bites.  I curl up on the couch with a big bowl of washed cherries, pick one up by the stem and balance it between my front teeth, closing my lips so just the stem is visible. I yank the stem off and drop it back in the bowl.

Gently biting the cherry causes it to burst. My teeth and tongue wiggle out the pit. Gracefully (or not?) I bend over the bowl to spit out the pit. Slowly and softly I chew the sweet, meaty cherry flesh. It’s much more interactive than eating, say, a grape or an apple.  My cherry eating ritual is like summer: fun, lazy, and way too brief I think, as I stare down at a bowl full of pits and stems.

They won’t be here long so enjoy them while you can. At the height of the cherry season, most of July, the prices come down and it’s the perfect time to stock up on cherries to freeze for those dreary winter days ahead.

To freeze cherries, you first need to pit them.  Remove the stems, wash the cherries, and pat dry with paper towels.  Pull on a pair of plastic kitchen gloves and grab a cherry/olive pitter.  Place the stem end of the cherry up, pointing toward the spike of the pitter.  I do this in a deep stainless steel bowl, as sometimes the pits like to shoot out and this controls where they land. Cover the pitter with one hand while you firmly squeeze the pitter with the other hand. This prevents cherry juice from splattering on you.

If you don’t have a pitter (why not?) you can use a small paring knife, but the cherries become halves instead of whole and it is much more work. Cut a circle all the way around the center of the cherry. It doesn’t matter if you cut stem to end, or around the middle. Twist the cherry and one half will contain the pit and the other will not. Place them in two separate bowls and continue cutting and twisting. Take the bowl of cherry halves with pits and use your fingers or thumb to gently nudge out the pit.

Lay the pitted cherries on a small baking sheet that will fit flat in your freezer. I first cover the pan with plastic wrap before spreading out the cherries so that I don’t have to wash it later. Place the cherries in the freezer, uncovered, for about an hour or until mostly frozen. Remove the tray from the freezer and drop the cherries into a freezer bag. Squish out all the air and seal. Write the date on the bag and store in the freezer for up to six months.

You can eat them frozen for a cool snack or throw a handful in a blender with other ingredients for a smoothie. Thaw them to use in salsas, sauces, and other dishes. The sex appeal of eating them out of hand on a hot July evening can’t be beat, but every time I pull a cherry from the freezer in January, I smile, thinking about the simple pleasure I enjoyed for a brief moment last July.

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