Cherries are a nutritious and delicious fruit that can be enjoyed year round by freezing them during peak season. Many people wonder if it’s safe and healthy to eat frozen cherries. This article will explore the effects of freezing on cherries and provide tips for selecting, storing, thawing, and eating frozen cherries.
Nutrition of Fresh vs Frozen Cherries
Cherries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. The two main varieties sold frozen are sweet cherries and tart cherries.
Sweet cherries are rich in vitamin C, carotenoids and anthocyanins. Tart cherries, often sold as frozen pitted cherries, are an excellent source of anthocyanins, quercetin and vitamin C. Anthocyanins give cherries their bright red color and act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
|Nutrient||Per 1 cup fresh sweet cherries||Per 1 cup frozen sweet cherries|
|Protein||2 g||1 g|
|Carbs||25 g||22 g|
|Sugar||19 g||16 g|
|Fiber||3 g||2 g|
|Vitamin C||10 mg (17% DV)||9 mg (15% DV)|
|Vitamin A||192 IU (4% DV)||131 IU (3% DV)|
|Potassium||222 mg (5% DV)||196 mg (4% DV)|
Frozen cherries retain most of the nutrients of fresh cherries. Blanching cherries before freezing deactivates enzymes that can degrade nutrients over time. The main nutrient loss is vitamin C, due to its sensitivity to heat and oxidation. Still, frozen cherries provide 15% of the daily recommended vitamin C intake per cup.
Effect of Freezing on Texture
Freezing cherries does soften their texture. The ice crystals that form during freezing rupture the cell walls of the cherry flesh. This causes them to lose their firmness and become softer.
However, contrary to popular belief, freezing doesn’t make cherries mushy if done properly. Properly frozen cherries may be slightly softer than fresh, but still retain a reasonably firm texture.
The keys to avoiding mushy frozen cherries are:
- Selecting fully ripe, undamaged cherries.
- Cleaning and drying cherries well before freezing.
- Freezing individual cherries in a single layer on a tray before transferring to a bag.
- Use freezer bags or containers to prevent freezer burn.
- Eat frozen cherries within 10-12 months for best texture.
Effect of Freezing on Flavor
Frozen cherries can develop a slight loss of flavor compared to fresh. A couple factors play a role here:
- Cell damage during freezing can allow subtle flavor compounds to leach out over time.
- Enzymatic activity during freezing leads to some flavor degradation.
- Freezer burn from improper storage imparts off-flavors.
That said, properly frozen cherries will retain most of their sweet, tart cherry flavor. Any flavor changes are subtle. The frozen cherries still pack that delicious cherry pop when eaten.
Selecting Frozen Cherries
Read labels when buying frozen cherries.
- No added sugars or syrups: Plain frozen cherries have better flavor and avoid added sugars.
- Individually frozen: Cherries frozen separately retain texture and shape better than those frozen in clumps.
- Unsweetened: Look for unsweetened cherries to avoid excess calories from added sugars.
- U.S. grown: Domestic cherries are typically frozen at peak ripeness for better flavor.
Thawing and Using Frozen Cherries
Frozen cherries are versatile and easy to use once thawed:
- Thaw frozen cherries overnight in the fridge or quickly under cool running water.
- Use thawed cherries in smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt parfaits, baked goods and desserts.
- Substitute thawed cherries 1:1 for fresh cherries in any recipe.
- Enjoy cherry juice made by thawing cherries in a strainer over a bowl.
- Puree thawed cherries into a sauce for pancakes, ice cream or cheesecake topping.
Avoid thawing cherries on the counter or microwaving them, as this leads to excessive moisture loss.
How Long Do Frozen Cherries Last?
Properly stored frozen cherries last up to 12 months in the freezer before quality begins to decline. Cherries held at 0°F or below retain their nutrients, flavor and texture better over time.
Signs frozen cherries are past their prime and should be discarded:
- Excessive moisture or large ice crystals inside the bag, indicating freeze-thaw cycles.
- Mushy, damaged fruit.
- Translucent appearance or freezer burn.
- Off odors, colors or excessive syrupiness.
For best quality and safety, eat frozen cherries within a year. Date packages and use oldest cherries first.
Can You Refreeze Thawed Cherries?
It’s best not to refreeze thawed frozen cherries. Refreezing cherries can damage cell structure further and negatively impact texture. The cherries may turn mushy with diminished flavor.
Instead, use thawed frozen cherries right away in recipes, smoothies or snacks. Cook thawed cherries into compotes, sauces or baked goods if you won’t use them up quickly enough.
Are Frozen Cherries Safe to Eat?
Commercially frozen cherries from reputable brands are safe to eat. The initial quick freezeprocess halts microbial growth. While pathogens can survive freezing temperatures, they cannot multiply in a properly frozen state.
Provided they have been kept continuously frozen, commercially prepared frozen cherries will not pose any safety risks. Handle thawed cherries the same as you would fresh cherries by storing in the fridge and using within a few days.
At-home frozen cherries should also be safe if prepared following proper procedures:
- Start with fresh, undamaged cherries.
- Wash cherries thoroughly before freezing.
- Sort and discard any bruised or mushy cherries.
- Freeze cherries in a single layer on a tray before transferring to bags.
- Cool cherries quickly to 0°F or below.
- Store frozen cherries at 0°F or below.
- Follow defrosting guidelines and use thawed cherries promptly.
- Do not refreeze thawed cherries.
Provided these guidelines are followed, frozen cherries are a safe, healthy treat to enjoy any time.
Frozen cherries make it easy to enjoy the nutrition and delicious taste of cherries year-round. While freezing does impact texture and flavor somewhat, properly frozen cherries retain excellent quality. Select plain, unsweetened frozen cherries and store them properly for a healthy, convenient frozen fruit option.