Juicy fresh cherries are a no-brainer when it comes to pies, crumbles, and cobblers—but that doesn’t mean the dainty stone fruits are just for dessert. These summer rubies are a healthful treat at any time of day, whether you choose to enjoy them in pastry, on their own, or incorporated into cocktails or savory dishes.
Smoked or roasted, cherries make for an unexpected and elevated garnish for the classic colada or old fashioned. If your cocktail preferences skew a bit more retro, try putting up a batch of your own real-deal maraschino cherries by steeping the season’s bounty in a bath of fragrant liqueur. Jars of boozy preserves are thoughtful handmade gifts—if you’re willing to part with them—and the contents will only improve as you dole out the preserved spoon sweets through a winter’s worth of happy hours.
Sour cherries in particular pair beautifully with rich meats in the form of glossy sauces, ketchups, and relishes, while sweeter varieties shine in salads. What you choose to make with your market haul is entirely up to you, but whatever you decide, you will likely be doing a lot of pitting: Save your time and sanity by investing in a cherry pitter. For many uses, frozen cherries are a reliable substitute for fresh, but nothing beats just-picked, tree-ripe fruit. As cherry season is woefully short, peaking in early to mid summer, you’ll want to stock up on the little gems when they’re available and plan to process them into jams, sauces, and preserves to last through the colder months. The creative uses for this summer favorite are boundless; here are some of our favorites.
The signature dessert of the region, gâteau basque is made by sandwiching a layer of jam or sweet pastry cream between two shortbread-like rounds. Cherry preserves are a classic filling—choosing a good-quality jam makes all the difference—and the dough itself resembles a cookie dough, with additional eggs lending a cakier texture. It can also be baked in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; just be sure to grease the sides with butter before assembling. Get the recipe for Cherry Gateau Basque »
These hand pies are an easy and portable way to showcase seasonal sour cherries. Rye flour lends a nutty complexity to the tender butter pie crust while cherry cocktail bitters, rich balsamic vinegar, and whole vanilla bean provide additional layers of fragrance and depth. Get the recipe for Sour Cherry Hand Pies »
Serve this summer fruit crisp with a cup of coffee for breakfast or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Get the recipe for Sour Cherry Crumble »
Vanilla, lemon zest, and cinnamon add oomph to the filling of this rustic lattice-top pie. Get the recipe for Sour Cherry Pie »
Cherries and cherry tomatoes bake down together into a savory-sweet layer under a sweet biscuit topping in this recipe from chef Amanda Cohen. Get the recipe for Cherry Tomato and Cherry Cobbler »
The sweetness of cherries balances the saltiness of halloumi in this simple summer salad, perfect for a side or a main dish. Get the recipe for Grilled Halloumi and Cherry Salad »
Serve this creamy, sweet baked ricotta dish as an appetizer, as part of a cheese course, or for dessert paired with shortbread cookies. Get the recipe for Baked Ricotta with Orange Blossom-Cherry Sauce
The classic combination of pork and fruit gets the ultimate summer treatment in this dish from John Karangis of Union Square Events. Made tender in an aromatic braise, pork belly gets a quick char on a hot grill before resting atop buttery sweet corn and a relish of sweet and sour cherries tossed with jalapeños and a honey-lime vinaigrette. Get the recipe for Grilled Pork Belly with Butter Corn and Sour-Sweet Cherry-Jalapeño Relish »
A classic piña colada gets an extra deep flavor with the addition of smoky roasted cherries. Get the recipe for Roasted Cherry Colada »
Not only wonderful to sip, this “cocktail” is delicious poured over vanilla ice cream or pound cake. Get the recipe for Brandied Cherries
Roasted cherries appear in three ways in this twist in an Old Fashioned—in cherry-infused vodka, muddled at the bottom, and thrown on top as a garnish. Get the recipe for Cherry Old Fashioned »
An eggy, crêpe-like batter dotted with sweet cherries and baked, clafoutis is an easy breakfast that reads fancy and takes only minutes to whip together. Get the recipe for Cherry Clafoutis
This sweet-tart cherry, cilantro, and walnut salad is delicious on its own or as a relish for grilled meats or fish. Get the recipe for Cherry & Herb Salad »
Sweet and tangy, this Hungarian cake pairs perfectly with coffee. Frozen and thawed cherries can be used whenever fresh sour cherries are not in season. Get the recipe for Hungarian Sour Cherry Cake »
Savory-sweet ketchup is a great way to use soft, less-than-perfect cherries—it makes a great stand-in for barbecue sauce in just about any application. If their season has already passed, frozen cherries work just as well. Get the recipe for Sweet Cherry Ketchup »
The bread crumb-encrusted chops pair beautifully with the tart, Port-spiked cherry sauce. See the recipe for Rack of Venison with Sour Cherry-Port Sauce »
This recipe comes from the chief of the Arcata Fire Department in Humboldt County, California, and is considered an all-time favorite among the firemen. Get the recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake »