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I look forward to cherry season all year. Here are our favorite, most tried and true sour cherry recipes of all time. You can make almost all of them with freshly picked, frozen, or jarred Morello or Montmorency cherries.

child picking sour cherries in an orchard
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What to do with sour cherries, like, right now

(Editor’s note: This introductory text is from the post’s original publication date in June, 2016.)

Earlier this week we spent a fantastic morning with friends picking sour cherries at Battleview Orchards in Freehold, NJ. Their sour cherry trees are lovely, petite little creatures just perfect for kids to get all up in.

While I was picking in a leisurely fashion, chatting with my friend Rachel, the kids collected 13 pounds of fruit in under 45 minutes. As all fans of pick your own will know, the limiting factor in these expeditions is not the picking itself but the processing at home afterwards, which can be time consuming and, in the case of cherries, a little messy.

I’m lucky to have a small, cute team of eager (and these days very capable) cooks and bakers on hand to help. Still, 13 pounds. Blogger that I am, before we’d even left the farm my brain was forming a question that doubles as a post title: What to Do with Sour Cherries (?!?!).

four children in a cherry orchard holding buckets

What are they?

Sour cherries, also called tart cherries, are delicate, thin-skinned, and bright red. As the name suggests, they’re very sour, and they have a floral briskness that really shines when lightly sweetened. They come in several varieties, including Moreno and Montmorency (pictured). You can use them interchangeably.

How to process them

Tart cherries are delicate, so if you’re picking them nice and ripe, it’s important to process them right away. (They’re more like berries than other cherries in this regard.) You can keep whole or pitted cherries in the fridge for a day or two. Any longer and it’s best to freeze them.

I’ve always found that a good old cherry pitter works very well, but some people prefer to use a small paper clip to remove the pits.

Regardless of the tool you choose, I highly recommend recruiting some help. Nearly anyone can participate, and it’s a great excuse to slow down, sit around, and chat.

sour cherries on a sheet pan and the pits, stems, and two cherry pitters on another

I like to set up three rimmed sheet pans next to each other on the kitchen floor and have pitters sit on either side.

  • Place the whole cherries on one pan
  • Use the middle pan to catch pits and stems. (Remove each stem before pitting.)
  • Place pitted cherries on the remaining pan.

Then we triage the cherries, reserving enough fresh ones for the recipes we want to make right away, and freezing the rest to use later in the year.

How to freeze them

Here’s how to freeze sour cherries:

  • Rinse and dry those sheet pans (or use smaller rimmed pans if necessary to fit in your freezer).
  • Line with parchment
  • Arrange cherries in a single layer on each pan. It’s okay if they’re snug, but try not to overlap them.
  • Place in the freezer until they’re frozen solid.
  • After that, you can transfer them into zip-top freezer bags or reusable airtight containers. They’ll keep really well for the whole year, until it’s time to pick again.
What to Do with Sour Cherries

Our favorite recipes using sour cherries

Here are some of our favorite ways to use sour cherries:

a slice of sour cherry cake on a plate with the rest of the cake on a stand behind it

Sour cherry cake is a beautiful seasonal adaptation of my all-time favorite Norwegian Gold cake. The tart cherries really shine in this rich golden dessert perfumed with vanilla and almond.

sour cherry frozen yogurt scooped into small bowls with spoons

Sour cherry frozen yogurt is bright, refreshing, and bursting with flavor. It’s a great way to enjoy sour cherries at the height of summer — but since it’s made with frozen fruit, you can go for it anytime.

sour cherry crisp a la mode in a deep dish pie plate and on a plate

Sour cherry crisp is an easy and beautiful way to let this fleeting seasonal ingredient shine, without overwhelming it. Make-ahead friendly and ready in an hour.

a sour cherry muffin on plates with more on a cooling rack and red and white towel

Sour cherry muffins combine the twin summer joys of tart cherries and corn. They’re based on our favorite buttermilk cornbread muffins, which have just the right balance of light sweetness and gentle heft. The cherries are an absolutely natural fit.

French 75 Sour Cherry Cocktail in a coupe glass garnished with homemade maraschino cherries

The classic French 75 uses fresh lemon juice and simple syrup to create a smooth, sour sparkling gin drink. In this sour cherry cocktail, we brighten things up with homemade cherry syrup for a blush-colored seasonal twist.

homemade maraschino cherries in a glass jar

Here’s how to make homemade maraschino cherries two ways: a kid-friendly version for Shirleys and desserts and a boozy, adults-only version for cocktails.

sour cherry syrup in a small jar with a spoon and three cherries

Use this easy, versatile sour cherry syrup in a cocktail, a Shirley Temple, or drizzled liberally into soda water to make an Italian soda. It’s ready in minutes and keeps for a month in the fridge.

shirley temple recipe with sour cherries in a glass with a straw

Our Shirley Temple recipe is a big hit with the littles. You can use our homemade sour cherry syrup or bottled grenadine, and make other customizations to suit your tastes. Here’s how to do it.

holding a sour cherry pie

And don’t miss Domenica Marchetti’s recipe for sour cherry pie (via NPR).

That’s it for our favorite sour cherry recipes. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments section. xx

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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  1. My mother always made delicious sour cherry soup. It is served cold.

    It is a Hungarian receipt. Unfortunately I don’t have hers but it can be found on YouTube.

    1. Wonderful! I’ve seen several versions of this recipe over the years from central Europe (mostly Hungary and Romania) but have yet to try it. Thanks for the nudge. 🙂