You get the perfect combination of sweet, spicy flavor and pleasing texture. Use them alone or with other mix-ins.
Sweet cherry flavors appeal to young, old, and all the stops in between. What they don’t have is also perfect for today’s market. No fat. No cholesterol. No sodium. And no sugar added. Make the perfect choice for added sales this ice cream season: frozen sweet cherries!
Frozen sweet cherries are a popular flavoring and coloring ingredient in yogurt and ice cream products. Once sweet cherry season is in full swing, and growers estimate an average-sized crop of fruit this year. But the market for frozen sweet cherries is anything but average as growers are faced with a steady demand, according to the National Cherry Growers and Industries Foundation, an organization that manages and handles funds and promotions for the frozen cherry industry nationwide.
Cheering on Frozen Cherries
Quality products must employ quality ingredients, and few fruits can promote the image of upscale luxury like sweet cherries. As their harvesting season draws to a close, growers predict a strong market and a steady demand for the produce, which vary in their source and variety but not in their strong consumer appeal. Although a number of cherry varieties are available for freezing, only those with the best color and quality are chosen.
The Vans and the Black Republicans end up with strong color and flavor characteristics that are particularly good for yogurt and ice cream. Dairy products usually dilute the color, so you need a product with good color not only in the skin, but also in the flesh. This is especially important in ice cream and yogurt because whole cherries are rarely used. The interior flesh is dark-red inside the Black Republican cherry, while a Bing has its mahogany tones mostly in the skin.
Quality to You
The cherries are harvested into field boxes, the fruit is hydro-cooled and then mechanically sorted. Stems are removed, and the fruit is separated into three sizes. Next the cherries are pitted and sliced into halves. Hand-sorters conduct a final quality check on the fruit for defective pieces and pits. Finally, the fruit is packed into 40-lbs cartons and stored in commercial freezers.
The cherries retain their quality in their frozen state for at least two years. But there’s no reason to store the fruit that long. Demand is strong for the product, and long storage is not necessary.
Michigan: Cherry Central, a marketing co-op, is considered the largest sweet cherry manufacturer in Michigan, growing and processing cherries for freezing and canning. It has at least 100 growers who produce approximately three million lbs. of dark, sweet cherries each year. Cherry Growers Inc., harvests cherries for freezing mechanically in mid-July, along with 40 – 60 million lbs of tart cherries.
Northwest: The Midwest and Northwest are about the only areas that produce cherries for the frozen market. Oregon Cherry Growers serves 200 growers and has processing facilities in The Dalles, and Salem Oregon. The company handles fruit for the frozen, fresh and brining sectors, with about 10 – 15% of it’s business in frozen cherries.