February is National Cherry Month! I am so excited. Cherry is one of my all-time favorite fruits. Aside from the flavor, they are packed with good nutrients and are low in calories. Cherries have a glycemic index of 22. This makes them better for diabetics than many other fruits. They contain about 90 calories per cup, about 21 cherries. They are also full of fiber, protein, and vitamin A and C. Cherries are very high in potassium, regulates heart rate and blood pressure and reduces the risk of hypertension. They also help reduce bad cholesterol levels.
Cherries also have the highest antioxidant level of any fruit. Antioxidants help the body fight inflammation and free radicals that make us look old. Studies have also shown cherries reduce arthritis and gout symptoms. Cherries contain melatonin five times more concentrated than blackberries or strawberries and helps cure insomnia and maintain healthy joint function.
Cherries are delicate fruits and need to be stored properly for the best flavor. If kept room temperature, they easten within 2 days. Cherries can be stored for about a week in the fridge. Keep them in a plastic pouch and place in the refrigerator. Cherries should be washed only before eating. Washing and then storing will quicken deterioration. Always store unwashed cherries in the refrigerator.
I have listed just a few of the many benefits of this superfood. Cherries are a versatile ingredient and can easily be used to enhance the flavor of most dishes which should make it easy to increase your intake of this wonderful fruit. Make your grocery list and meet me in the kitchen this weekend!
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
Makes one pint size jar. If you want to make more for sharing, this will easily double to produce more. Note though that the ingredients to be added to the jar must be added to each jar in the amounts listed.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups fresh cherries
1 small (or piece of) cinnamon stick
4 whole allspice
1/4 tsp. almond extract
In small saucepan over medium heat, combine water and sugar. Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring gently. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Add lemon juice and vanilla and stir again. Wash cherries. Then, pit and remove stems. Add cinnamon, allspice and almond extract to jar. Fill your jar with pitted cherries, leaving a 3/4 inch headspace. Pack cherries in tightly without smashing. Pour in flavored syrup, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Use a wooden skewer around the edges of jar to dislodge any bubbles. Wipe rim and place lid on jar. At this point, you can store the cherries in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks or water bath process them for longer storage. For water bath, process the jar in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes. Note the water bath does change their texture as this will somewhat cook them. They will darken and get softer. Either way, the flavor will take at least 3 days to soak into the cherries and then they are ready to eat.
Recipe adapted from livinghomegrown.com
Chocolate Covered Cherries
1 10oz jar maraschino cherries with stems 4 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsps. salted butter (softened)
16oz chocolate melting wafers
Drain cherries, reserving juice. Dab cherries gently with paper towel so they are as dry as possible. Set aside on paper towels to continue to dry. In a medium size bowl, mix 3 cups powdered sugar, butter and 1/4 cup cherry juice together. Add in the last cup of powdered sugar, 1/4 of a cup at a time, until mixture forms a soft dough. Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Make small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Flatten dough balls, dusting with powdered sugar if necessary to prevent sticking. Fold dough over cherry to completely cover it, then roll into smooth ball again. Refrigerate covered cherries for 20 minutes. Melt chocolate in double boiler or chocolate melting pot. Holding cherry by stem, dip in melted chocolate and allow excess to drip off. Place chocolate covered cherry on a baking pan covered with wax or parchment paper. Repeat with remaining cherries. Allow chocolate to set completely before storing cherries in an airtight container. The stems make for easy dipping, but you can remove stems and then cover the small hole with a drop of chocolate. One important thing to remember with these, the chocolate must completely cover the cherry with no breaks. The filling will seep out if there are any weak spots in the chocolate. If the chocolate is too thin from where it was on the wax paper, just dab some more chocolate on it and set it on a side that is dry. If you like your filling to be liquid gooey, let these sit for about 6-8 days before eating. This will allow the juices from the cherries to liquefy the powdered sugar mixture covering the cherries.
Recipe adapted from tastesoflizzyt.com
Sweet Cherry Jam
3 pounds fully ripe dark sweet cherries
1 1¾oz pkg regular powdered fruit pectin ¼ cup lemon juice
5 cups sugar
Stem, pit, and chop cherries. Measure 4 cups chopped cherries. In a 6- or 8-quart heavy pot combine 4 cups cherries, pectin, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Bring to boiling, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring to combine. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon. Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids. Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner and cool on wire racks. The lids should seal shut with little pops if you did it right.
Recipe adapted from midwestliving.com
2¼ cups pitted cherries (about 3/4 pound), roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
¾ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a large bowl, stir cherries together with sugar and let stand at least 5 minutes for the sugar to absorb. Stir in the lime juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, and salt. Gently fold in red onion, jalapenos and cilantro. Chill for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then serve cold or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from imperialsugar.com
1 ¾ cups unsalted sweet cream butter
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. almond extract
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups fresh cherries
Pit cherries. Cut into small pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Blend butter until creamy. Add sugar and almond extract and cream again until smooth. Stir in flour and cherries. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll cookies into balls and place on prepared cookie sheets. Press cookies down lightly with fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until done.
Recipe adapted from cantstayoutofthekitchen.com