Cherry season has been going for a while here in California, and there have been some in my fridge pretty much constantly since they first showed up at the market. I love keeping cherries on hand for snacking, but that's not all these sweet little stone fruits are good for. They're iconic in desserts like pies and cobblers, but their rich flavors also work well in savory dishes like grilled duck breast with cherry-port sauce. You can even mix them into drinks like a summery swizzle with rum and Velvet Falernum. Cherries won't be around much longer though, so we've rounded up 12 of our favorite recipes to make the most of cherry season while it lasts.
The Best Cherry Pie (With Fresh or Frozen Fruit)
The best cherry pie calls for a little math—start with the cherries, then use 25% of their weight in sugar and 5.5% of their weight in tapioca starch to make a light filling that is just thick enough to hold itself together. The tapioca starch also ensures that the filling cooks at the perfect speed to finish just as the flaky crust is ready.
Cherry Pit Whipped Cream
After prepping a few pounds of cherries, you're going to have a lot of pits on your hands. You might be tempted to throw them away, but they've still got plenty of flavor for you to take advantage of. In this recipe we steep the pits in cream overnight, then strain and whip the cream to make an elegant topping to spoon onto cherry.
Chocolate Cherry Layer Cake
More of a cake person than a pie person? This intense chocolate cake uses cherries two ways: we add tart cherry juice to the batter to help bring out the fruity flavor of the chocolate and frost the cake with whipped cream made with freeze dried cherries. The freeze dried fruit give the whipped cream a beautiful color, and serve as a garnish as well.
Classic Cherry Clafoutis
As impressive as clafoutis is, it's equally easy to make. Just whip up the simple flour, egg, milk, and butter batter, pour it into a greased pan over pitted cherries, and bake. More rustic versions of the dish call for whole cherries, but we don't think they add enough flavor to be worth the risk of a chipped tooth.
Easy Stovetop Cherry Grunt (Stovetop Cobbler)
If you're not up for making pie, a grunt is a much simpler option. The whole dish is made on the stovetop, which we use to cook a mixture of sour cherries, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch topped with biscuit dough. Even in peak season it can be hard to find fresh sour cherries, but frozen ones will do.
Cherry Hand Pies
These hand pies are individual and portable—perfect for picnic season. To perk up the sweet filling we mix in lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Don't feel like making a batch of our easy pie dough? The filling is delicious on vanilla ice cream.
Sweet-Sour Macerated Cherries With Marcona Almonds, Mint, and Ricotta
Straddling the line between sweet and savory, this dish would be just as appropriate for breakfast as it would be for dessert. We give the cherries a sweet-sour pop by macerating them with honey, red wine vinegar, and black pepper and then serve them with good ricotta, Marcona almonds, and mint.
Cherry and Jicama Salad With Lime and Macadamia Nuts
This refreshing side is a far fry from a typical fruit salad. We make it by pairing cherries with crunchy, juicy jicama and buttery macadamia nuts. Fresh basil and lime brighten up the salad and a drizzle of olive oil tempers the acid. We went with jicama for the recipe because its mild flavor lets the sweet cherries shine.
Goat Cheese and Balsamic-Roasted-Cherry Crostini
To make the topping for these crostini we coat cherries in a balsamic glaze, which emphasizes their natural sweetness. That'd be a little too sweet on its own though, so we cut the sugar by pairing the glazed cherries with tangy goat cheese. Make sure to find sturdy bread that can stand up to the soft toppings.
Peppered Duck Breasts With Cherry-Port Sauce
Rich, fatty duck and sweet cherries are a classic combination. Here we cook the cherries down with port, balsamic vinegar, and shallots to make a robust sauce that's sweet but balanced. It's cookout season, so of course we fire up the grill to cook the duck. Start the skin-side down until crisp, then flip over and cook to 130°F.
Grilled Summer Smash
Don't put out the grill just yet—you're going to need it to make this summery cocktail. The drink is made with nectarine, lime, and cherries, all of which are grilled until charred and slightly caramelized. Rather than something expected like whiskey or rum, we mix the grilled fruit with funky aged cachaça.
Cherry Sumac Swizzle
A traditional swizzle is made with rum, lime, sugar, and plenty of crushed ice. Here we add sweet Velvet Falernun, which brings flavors of clove, ginger, lime, and bitter almond. Instead of sugar we sweeten the cocktail with a cherry-sumac syrup—the tangy sumac complements the vanilla and spice notes of the liquor.