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In Season: Cherries

cherry season and cheese

When you think of summer snacking, cherries likely come to mind. Plucking the fresh fruit off the stem as you chew the cool, juicy flesh is a distinct seasonal pleasure, one that can be enjoyed only during the peak of summer.

A stone fruit related to plums and peaches, cherries are divided into sweet and sour. It’s the sweet variety—often Bings or Rainiers—that are chomped raw as a warm weather treat. Sour cherries can be found fresh in areas where they’re grown, but are more commonly dried or canned. In the United States, sweet cherries typically come from the Pacific Northwest, while sour cherries are plentiful in Michigan and New York (cold causes the plant to germinate).

When buying fresh cherries, look for plump fruits with shiny skins, which signal that the flesh is ripe and juicy, and attached stems, which prevent rot. Rainiers should be vibrant with red-yellow gradation, Bings a deep black-red.

The cherry’s classic color comes from anthocyanins, pigments believed to have antioxidant properties. It’s partially thanks to these antioxidants that cherries are considered so nutritious, but they also contain plenty of vitamins A and C, plus fiber and potassium.

For raw uses or snacking, choose cherries on the firmer side, making sure to scan for bruises. But while softer cherries might seem past their prime, they’re just fine for pies or compotes (check out our recipe below). Take note: Since cherries quickly degrade at room temperature, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator with paper towels to wick off moisture.

Cherries and cheese go together like champs; the fruit’s hint of sour cuts through rich, salty cheeses, yet doesn’t overpower milder picks. At the height of the summer heat, skip the stove and serve chilled cherries with a decadent triple cream or citrusy chèvre and a baguette. As the weather cools, serve cooked cherries with a fruity blue or atop milky burrata.

Either way, they’re not here for long—so go ahead, take your pick.

Mascarpone Ice Cream with Cherry Compote and Oat Crumble

Cooked cherries and crunchy crumble offset the richness of mascarpone ice cream. Serve leftover compote as a cheeseboard accompaniment; try it with crottin and oatcakes. Ice cream recipe adapted from Food & Wine.
Servings 4


  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 pound sweet cherries pitted
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pinch salt
  • cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 large egg whites lightly whisked
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Pinch salt


  • ICE CREAM: Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy. Meanwhile, bring milk to a light simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; make sure milk does not scald or boil. Once it reaches a light simmer, remove milk from heat. Slowly add warmed milk to egg mixture, stirring constantly.
  • Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Pay close attention as too much heat will cause mixture to separate and eggs to scramble. Once mixture clings to spoon, remove from heat.
  • Fill a large mixing bowl with ice water and place a smaller bowl inside ice bath. Add custard mixture to smaller bowl and cool for 5 minutes. Add mascarpone, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt and mix until combined. Refrigerate mixture until chilled, about 10 minutes.
  • Pour custard into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. For a soft-serve texture, serve immediately. For a more traditional ice cream texture, cover and freeze for at least 2 hours.
  • COMPOTE: Combine cherries, sugar, and ½ cup water in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer cherries to a bowl. Add lemon juice and salt to liquid remaining in saucepan and cook until reduced and thick enough to coat a wooden spoon, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour liquid over cherries and cool to room temperature.
  • OAT CRUMBLE: Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Combine oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter until evenly distributed and mixture is shaggy. Add egg whites and oil and mix until just combined.
  • Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer, then use a spatula to separate into bite-size chunks. Bake, stirring halfway through, until golden-brown, about 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
  • TO SERVE: Top scoops of ice cream with a spoonful of cherry compote and a sprinkle of oat crumble.

Bettina Makalintal

Bettina Makalintal is culture's former editorial assistant. With a background in the food industry and as a bike mechanic, she can often be found biking in search of new donut shops.

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