A Guide To Preserve Fresh Cherries – The 5 Best Ways

Whether you have a growing cherry tree or got them from a neighbor, preserving fresh cherries is important. Therefore, let’s find out how to preserve fresh cherries. Also, this article will include how to freeze fresh picked cherries.

To preserve fresh cherries in the refrigerator up to one week, place unwashed cherries into a ventilated plastic food storage bag or container. Close the bag or container and place them into the refrigerator and store them up to one week.

In this post, I’ll cover this preservation method step-by-step. In addition, I’ll cover different methods for longer storage for one month up to four years. These will include step-by-step instructions for the refrigerator, freezing, drying and canning.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Storing and Preserving Fresh Cherries

Cherries in a basket.
Cherries in a basket

As a Certified Health Coach many clients ask me about food storage including cherries. I purchase and consume cherries every week. Therefore, I have researched this topic in the past and present. Let’s examine them closely.

In addition to the preservation method above, there are more ways to store cherries for different timeframes up to four years.

How to store fresh cherries:

  1. Refrigerate inside a ventilated container up to 1 week.
  2. Freeze cherries inside a plastic freezer bag up to 8 months.
  3. Refrigerate inside a jar covered with syrup up to 1 month.
  4. Dry in a dehydrator and seal them in a bag refrigerated up to 4 years.
  5. Can and store in the refrigerator up to 2 years.

How To Store and Preserve Cherries

1. Store Fresh Cherries in the Refrigerator.

Let’s say you came home and have a bunch of cherries you’ll consume in about one week.

Cherries should be stored in the refrigerator and not on the counter. Cold storage is essential for preserving them. They will lose more of their quality in one hour on the counter than refrigerated in one day.

The last thing you want to do is leave them out on the counter. The best way to preserve them is to place them into the refrigerator.

How to store fresh cherries in the refrigerator:

  1. Pace unwashed cherries into a ventilated plastic food storage bag or container.
  2. Close the bag or container.
  3. Place them into the refrigerator up to one week.

It’s important not to wash them until you’re ready to use them. When they are rinsed, they will absorb water which will affect their quality during storage.

If you don’t have a ventilated bag or container, they can be placed into a shallow container. In addition, they can be placed into layers with paper towels between them.

Regardless of the container, always ensure the ones at the bottom are not being crushed by the ones on the top 1.

A bowl of cherries.
A bowl of cherries

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2. Freeze Fresh Picked Cherries Up To 8 Months.

If you have too many cherries to consume in one week, you may want to freeze them before they go bad or discarding them. It’s best to freeze them with the pits and stems removed 2. Although they can be frozen whole with them.

It’s more convenient to use frozen cherries already pitted and with no stems. Especially if you plan on adding them frozen into smoothies or blended drinks. In addition, you may forget the pits are still inside.

How to freeze fresh picked cherries:

  1. Wash the cherries under cool running water.
  2. Blot them with a paper towel and allow them to fully dry.
  3. Remove the stems.
  4. Remove the pits.
  5. Place them onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Ensure they’re not touching each other.
  6. Place the baking sheet into the freezer until they are fully frozen.
  7. Remove the baking sheet and transfer the frozen cherries into plastic freezer bags.
  8. Remove as much excess air as possible and seal the freezer bag.
  9. Date the bag and store in the freezer up to eight months.

Freezing them spaced out on a baking sheet first ensures they don’t stick together into huge blocks 3. This makes it easier to pull out as many as you need. This especially helps when making a smoothie.

The best way to remove excess air from the plastic freezer bag is to use a vacuum sealer. They are one of those items making you wonder how you did without one before purchasing it. Amazon has many affordable ones. Check out their current prices here, Vacuum Sealers.

Without a sealer, close the top of the bag leaving a small opening to fit a straw through. Suck the excess air out of the plastic bag and quickly close the top after removing the straw 4.

The pits can be removed the old-fashioned way or you can use a pit remover. Check out the video towards the end of this article which shows four ways to remove a cherry pit including the remover.

Fresh cherries in a bowl.
Fresh cherries in a bowl Pin to Pinterest

How to Defrost Frozen Cherries

It’s time to use the frozen cherries but now what?

The best way to thaw frozen fresh cherries is to transfer them from the freezer to the refrigerator. The length of time for defrosting varies on the size of the frozen sections.

If you can’t wait that long, you can place the frozen bag into a bowl of cool water. This will defrost them much faster. Don’t leave them out on the counter in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than two hours 5.

If you’re using frozen cherries for a smoothie, they can be placed directly into your high-speed blender.

3. Refrigerate Jarred Cherries In Sugar Water Up To One Month.

You may want the cherries to last longer than one week in the refrigerator but don’t want to freeze them. Storing them in a syrup solution and jarred is the perfect solution. Refrigerated cherries in syrup will last up to one month.

How to refrigerate fresh cherries in syrup:

  1. Rinse the cherries under cool water.
  2. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  3. Remove the stems.
  4. Remove the pits.
  5. Place them into a mason jar leaving about one inch of headspace.
  6. Boil four cups of water and two cups of sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  7. Allow the syrup to cool down.
  8. Pour the syrup into the jar covering the cherries leaving at least 1/2″ of headspace.
  9. Seal the jar and place into the refrigerator.
  10. Store up to one month.

Removing the Cherry Pit and Stem

Pitting the cherries reduces the weight of the storage jar while letting the sugar and water penetrate the fruit. When the liquid gets inside, it prevents it from rotting or getting moldy.

There are several ways to pit a cherry, but our primary goal is to prevent the fruit from getting damaged in the process.

Try these two methods:

  1. Use a cherry pitter. They’re designed to pit cherries and olives without breaking the fruit. Simply place a cherry in the center of the tool, line up the stem and squeeze the handle. The seed will pop out, and you can remove the cherry and start with the next one.
  2. Another way to pit cherries without a pitter is to push a thin straw or toothpick through the hole where the stem was. Continue pushing the tip through until the seed pops out the other side. That’s all you have to do to dispose of the pit!

Boiling the Water and Sugar

For this step, you’ll need two cups of sugar and four cups of water. Pour the water into a pot and bring it to a light simmer. Toss the sugar into the simmering water, then stir it and bring it to a boil.

Keep boiling the sugar while slowly stirring it to prevent the sugar from sticking to the bottom or getting too hot.

Stir and boil the sugar-water combo until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and let the water cool down just a bit before mixing it with the cherries 6.

You don’t want to scorch the cherries or risk breaking the jar, so make sure the glass is heat-proof.

Filling the Mason Jar with the Cherries and Water

Fill a mason jar with as many cherries as possible, ensuring you leave at least half an inch of space at the top. The water will soak through everything, filling the gaps and preserving the cherries for a long time to come.

Make sure you don’t push them too hard, or they’ll smush and turn into mush. Once you have them packed into the jar, slowly pour the hot sugar-water mixture over the cherries. Remember to leave half an inch at the top of the jar.

There are two reasons you need to leave the gap above the cherries and water:

  1. The water and cherries will expand, filling the space.
  2. If you don’t leave a small gap above, they might squeeze out of the jar when you close the lid.

Storing in the Refrigerator

While the water and sugar will keep your cherries in good condition, they have to be stored in a cool environment. Your refrigerator will prevent bacteria and bugs from going after the mixture.

Seal the jar and place them in the refrigerator right after you’re finished. You don’t have to wait for the jar, cherries or water to cool down beforehand.

Preserved cherries typically last for up to four weeks in the fridge, but they can last a little longer if you keep your refrigerator on the coldest setting.

The back is usually the best place to store preserved fruit since it’s the lowest temperature, but some refrigerators have a designated fruit shelf or drawer that reduces the ambient humidity.

4. Storing Dehydrated Cherries

Drying Cherries With a Dehydrator

Drying cherries are a great way to preserve the taste of cherries. They can be used as a snack while hiking, added to trail mix, yogurt and much more.

How to dry cherries in a dehydrator:

  1. Wash the cherries under cool running water.
  2. Pat them and allow them to dry.
  3. Remove the stems.
  4. Remove the pits.
  5. Cut them in halves.
  6. Place the halves spaced out onto the dehydrator tray with the cut side up and skin side down.
  7. Dehydrate at 135 degrees Fahrenheit for 24-36 hours until they look shriveled and leathery.
  8. Allow the dried cherries to completely cool.
  9. Place them into a vacuum sealed bag up to 48 months at 40°F, 24 months at 70ºF or 12 months at 90ºF.
  10. Store in a dry, dark place.

For shorter storage time frames, the dried cherries can be kept in a jar or an airtight container. The refrigerator will keep them fresh for longer but they can be kept in a cool, dry place away from a heat source or sunlight.

It’s best to store them in smaller containers instead of putting them all into one large container. This will keep the closed containers drier and more fresh when snacking from one container.

Prior to storing the cherries long-term, place them into a jar about two-thirds full. Shake the jar every day for about one week. If you notice any condensation in the jar, it means they haven’t been dried enough. Place them back into the dehydrator and dry them more.

If the cherries aren’t dried enough, mold may form from the condensation. If you see any mold, discard the cherries.

Dehydrating Cherries With An Oven

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you may use an oven if the temperature setting goes as low as 135ºF. My oven only goes down to 170 degrees. This temperature is still okay to use.

How to dry cherries in an oven:

  1. Wash the cherries under cool running water.
  2. Pat them and allow them to dry.
  3. Remove the stems.
  4. Remove the pits.
  5. Cut them in halves.
  6. Place the halves spaced out onto a baking sheet with the cut side up and skin side down.
  7. Set the oven at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or its lowest temperature.
  8. Bake for about 6-9 hours or until they look shriveled and leathery.
  9. Allow the dried cherries to completely cool.
  10. Place them into a vacuum sealed bag up to 48 months at 40°F, 24 months at 70ºF or 12 months at 90ºF.
  11. Store in a dry, dark place.

To get the oven temperature cooler, I know some people who leave the oven door slightly ajar. This method isn’t ideal. Dehydrators are the best way to go. Amazon does sell a wide variety at affordable prices. Take a look at some of them here, Dehydrators for Food.

5. How To Can Fresh Cherries

  1. Prepare an ascorbic acid solution by adding 1 teaspoon of powdered ascorbic acid per one gallon of cold water. Keep the mixture in a large bowl or pot.
  2. Rinse the cherries under cool running water.
  3. Remove the stems.
  4. Remove the pits.
  5. Place them into the ascorbic acid mixture to prevent the flesh from discoloring.
  6. Remove the cherries and drain.
  7. Prepare syrup by adding 10 cups of water and 1 1/4 cups of sugar into a large pot. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
  8. Place the drained cherries into the water and bring to a boil.
  9. Fill the jars with the cherries and liquid leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.
  10. Clean the jar rim and put the lid on.

Process in a Boiling Water Canner

  1. Fill the canner half way with water and heat to 180ºF.
  2. Place the sealed jars into the canner rack and lower into the water using the handles.
  3. The water should cover the tops of the jars by one inch and cover. Add more water if needed.
  4. Once the water boils, lower heat to maintain a gentle boil and continue for the recommended amount of time shown below.
  5. Once complete, remove from the heat and remove the canner lid.
  6. Wait five minutes and remove the jars placing them onto a rack or towel.
  7. Allow the jars to cool for 12-24 hours.
  8. Check the center of the lid to make sure it’s indented.
  9. Clean, label and date the jar.
  10. Store the jar in a cool, dark place.
  11. Store up to 24 months at 40ºF, 18 months at 70ºF or 9 months at 90ºF.

The table below is the processing times using a boiling water canner 7.

AltitudeJar SizeProcessing
0-1,000 ft.Pint
15 min.
20 min.
1,001-3,000 ft.Pint
20 min.
25 min.
3,001-6,000 ft.Pint
20 min.
30 min.
Above 6,000 ft.Pint
25 min.
35 min.

If you have any questions to ask me about this article don’t hesitate to comment below or email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

Read Next – More Food Storage Articles!

A Guide To Storing Toasted Bread

The Shelf Life Of Clementines And How To Store Them

Reasons Why Storing Meat Is Important

How To Store Your Eggs In Lime Water

A Guide To Storing Olives

How To Store Your Bread Dough

  1. Ohio State University Extension: Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Cherries[]
  2. Hockaday Orchards: How To Freeze Fresh Cherries[]
  3. Utah State University: Fruit Freezing Methods[]
  4. Glad: Cherries[]
  5. PennSate Extension: Let’s Preserve: Cherries[]
  6. Stemilt: Preserving Uncooked Cherries Easily & Quickly[]
  7. Utah State University: How to Preserve Cherries[]

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