Is there anything so lovely as a beautiful, juicy flavor-packing cherry? I didn’t think so. That’s why I thought it would be far more fun to dry them and get rid of all of that juicy goodness.
Before we talk about drying them, let me assure you there’s a method to my madness. Dehydration is the absolute best way I know to save the essence of the pure flavor of the fruit. By removing the water over a prolonged period of time, one is left with only the essence of taste; you don’t need to add sugar, heat, vinegar or anything else (all things I love – we’ve preserved almost 2 cases of preserved cherries this year and have almost a dozen different types of preserved cherries in our pantry). I just have a special place for drying them because they dry so well and their taste is preserved almost in tact. They also shrivel up and take a tiny amount of space to store compared to preserving them whole in simple syrup.
Drying them is easy – especially if you have a dehydrator (we can do up to 20 pounds at a time – though the final yield is about 10% of what went in to the dryer). The writing on the subject is all over the Internet and cookbooks – prick or pit them, place in a dehydrator around 135 degrees and wait until they are leathery (12-24 hours). That’s it. You’re done.
HOLD THE PHONE.
Remember nose to tail fruit? Yeaahhh Booyyyeeez – it’s time to lower the boom on cherries and talk about how to get something else from drying them and it’s a great way to steal from other techniques and help diversify your dried fruit.
Joel’s ‘Secret’ Dried Cherries
Pit your cherries. Weigh them (after pitting). Toss in 5-10% sugar. Cover and place in fridge overnight in a big non-reactive bowl.
Strain liquid into a bowl. A pound of pitted cherries will make at least a half cup of cherry simple syrup. We did 20 pounds and ended up with 3-4 liters. You can dry the cherries as-is or rinse them to remove residual sugar (I don’t mind the small amount of extra sweetness).
That extra liquid is instant cocktail, spritzer, addition to salad dressing or sweetener for iced teas. It can easily be added to a lemonade or even water (add as much as 3,4 or even 10 times the amount of water for just a taste).
Dehydrating removes the liquid from the fruit and evaporates it into the air – so why not use maceration to coax some of the liquid out. In the end you’ll save time and energy in your dryer – and you’ll be able to drink away the ‘angels share’ (this is a term from Scotch which describes the amount lost to evaporation each year as it ages in barrels). We’ll Share our adaptation of Julia’s cherry pit liquor soon as well…