All About Apples, Pears, and Cherries | Living the Country Life
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All About Apples, Pears, and Cherries

The Mathison family owns and operates Stemilt Growers and has been growing apples, pears, and cherries in eastern Washington since the early 1900s. Here are tips from the family on how to choose and use this delicious fruit.
  • How to Choose, Store, and Use Apples

    Stemilt grows classic apple varieties like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious, and new, up-and-coming varieties like Fuji apples, Honeycrisp apples, Gala apples, Pink Lady apples, and the farm's signature variety, Pinata (shown here).

    Learn the history of your favorite apple variety here. You can find out when specialty varieties like Rome apples and Jonagold apples are available.

    Apple Storage Tips

    • Store unwashed apples in the coldest part of your refrigerator
    • For best results, keep your refrigerator at 33 to 35 degrees with some humidity to reduce shriveling.
    • Sort through your apples often and remove any damaged ones to use for juice or sauce. One bad apple can spoil the bunch!
    • Don't store apples with strong-smelling foods like onions and garlic. Apples can easily take on the odor of those foods.
    • You'll also want to keep apples away from potatoes as they release a gas as they age which causes apples to spoil.
    • To store an entire box of apples, consider a second refrigerator or keep the box in a cool, dark place. Wrapping each apple in paper will provide additional protection and delay ripening.
    • Read our blog to learn 6 Tips for Selecting the Perfect Apple

    How To Freeze Apples

    Freezing apples is a great way to enjoy the fruit at a moment's notice for smoothies, snacking, and more. We've outlined two different methods you can use to freeze apples:

    • First, wash, peel, and core each apple. Use sweet apple varieties for best results.
    • Next, cut the apple into even, thin slices. A medium apple yields 12 slices, while a large apple yields 16. 
    • Brush the slices with a water-ascorbic acid mixture, or a lemon juice and water mixture. This prevents the fruit from browning.
    • Then, choose your freezing method: syrup pack, dry pack, or your own method.
    • Syrup Pack: Mix 2 cups of sugar in 3 cups of cold water in pot and bring to a boil. Once the sugar dissolves, place apple slices in the boiling syrup for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Pack the apples into freezer safe bags. Remove excess air. Freeze. These slices will remain good for 6 or more months.
    • Dry Pack: Place the apple slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid. Remove and pack into freezer safe bags. 

    Ideas for Using Apples

    • Pair your favorite apple variety with the right wine and cheese using our Pairology tool
    • Toss a fresh apple (skin and all) with other fruits and your green of choice (like spinach or kale) in a blender for a quick and healthy breakfast smoothie
    • Use apples to make a beautiful and edible table centerpiece like this one from our blog
    • Sweeten up a green salad with fresh apple slices
    • Use apples in creative snacks for your children to enjoy
    • Enjoy apple slices with your favorite "dip." Peanut butter and Greek yogurt are two tasty and healthy choices.
    • Make homemade apple chips for a quick and easy snack
    • Roast apples with squash, onions, spices, and a veggie or two. Then, blend into a warm and filling soup.
    Date Published: April 24, 2015
    Date Updated: April 24, 2015
  • How to store, use, and freeze pears

    Stemilt pears are grown in the Wenatchee River Valley and Entiat River Valley, the two best spots for growing pear varieties in the world. Alpine mountains and pristine rivers surround pear orchards and provide the cool temperatures and high-quality air drainage that your favorite pear varieties need to thrive.

    The farm grows classic pear varieties like Bartlett pears, Anjou pears, Bosc pears, and niche varieties like Comice pears, red pears, and Concorde pears. See all the varieties here.

    Pear Storage & Ripening Tips

    • Unlike other fruits, pears ripen from the inside out so by the time they are soft on the outside, the inside flesh may be overripe and mealy
    • Ripe pears should be stored in a refrigerator set at 35 to 45 degrees
    • Leave unripe pears at room temperature in order to induce ripening
    • To speed up the ripening process, place pears in a brown paper bag. This traps ethylene (a naturally occurring gas) which pears produce as they ripen.
    • You can also place pears next to bananas or avocados in order to ripen them. Just like pears, both fruits naturally release ethylene as they ripen. 
    • Some pears (like Bartlett) change color as they ripen, but many do not
    • To determine if a pear is ripe, check the neck of the pear daily. Apply gentle pressure with your thumb to the stem end of the fruit. Once it gives slightly to pressure, it is ripe and ready to enjoy.
    • Enjoy pears within a few days after you achieve the desired ripeness
    • Learn more about ripening pears on The Stem blog

    How To Freeze Pears

    Freezing helps you enjoy your favorite pear varieties all year long. Here, we've outlined two ways to freeze pears: 

    • First, wash, peel, and core each pear. Make sure the pears you use are ripe, but not overripe. 
    • Next, cut the pear into even, thin slices. The number of slices will vary depending on the size of the fruit.
    • Brush the slices with a water-ascorbic acid mixture (1/2 tsp is plenty), or a lemon juice and water mixture. This prevents the fruit from browning.
    • Then, choose your freezing method: syrup pack, dry pack, or your own method.
    • Syrup Pack: Mix 2 cups of sugar in 3 cups of cold water in pot and bring to a boil. Once the sugar dissolves, place pear slices in the boiling syrup for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Pack the pears into freezer safe bags. Remove excess air. Freeze. These slices will remain good for 6 or more months.
    • Dry Pack: Place the pear slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid. Remove and pack into freezer safe bags.  

    Ideas for Using Pears

    • Enjoy pears alongside wine and cheese. Use our Pairology tool to guide you in creating the perfect pairing.
    • Poach a pear for a simple and delicious dessert
    • Turn pears into a unique bruschetta appetizer when hosting
    • Create a festive and edible centerpiece by placing both Green and Red d'Anjou pears in a bowl or basket
    • Feature winter pears on a fresh green salad
    • Spend an afternoon canning Bartlett pears to use later in the year
    • Slice fresh, ripe pears and sprinkle with cinnamon for a quick and healthy snack
    • Sweeten up a classic grilled ham and cheese sandwich with pears
    Date Published: April 24, 2015
    Date Updated: April 24, 2015
  • How to select, store, freeze, pit, dry, and juice cherries

    The founding family of Stemilt has been growing sweet Stemilt cherries for a century on Stemilt Hill, a beautiful high-elevation locale that’s well-known for producing the large, firm, and flavorful northwest cherries/

    Stemilt cherries are available from May through early September each year thanks to growing multiple cherry varieties in locations from southern California to the Canadian border.

    Stemilt grows a number of cherry trees, including: Chelan, Garnet, Sequoia, Bing, Lapins, Skeena, Sweetheart, Staccato, and Rainier cherries. Learn about the history and characteristics of your favorite cherry varieties and when you can find dark-sweet cherries, Rainier cherries, and organic cherries in stores here.

    How To Select and Store Cherries

    • When selecting cherries at the store, look for shiny, firm fruits with green stems attached. Green stems are a freshness indicator. Avoid choosing soft cherries with major bruises or blemishes.
    • Store cherries unwashed and uncovered in the coldest part of the refrigerator. 
    • Avoid storing cherries near strong-smelling foods (like onions or garlic). Your cherries can take on the odor of these foods which alters their taste.
    • Rinse cherries under cold water only when you are ready to use or eat them. 
    • Avoid placing cherries near windows, sunlit areas or other warm areas for a prolonged period of time. Warm environments cause cherries to deteriorate quickly.
    • Periodically check your cherries for decay. Remove rotten cherries immediately in order to preserve the rest of your bag or clamshell.

    How To Freeze Cherries

    Cherries don’t have to be just a summertime treat! Here are two easy methods for freezing cherries, so that you can enjoy this tasty fruit no matter what time of the year it is:

    • First, rinse fresh cherries under cold water. Drain thoroughly.
    • Then, decide your freezing method. You can freeze cherries whole (with or without stems and pits) or use a dry sugar pack. 
    • To freeze cherries whole and unsweetenedfollow the steps in our blog post.
    • To freeze cherries with a dry sugar pack, add 1/3 cup of granulated sugar for every 2 cups of unpitted sweet cherries. Toss lightly to coat the cherries. Spread cherries in a single layer on a baking sheet.
    • No matter which method you follow, freeze the cherries until firm.
    • Then, fill plastic freezer bags with cherries. Shake the bag to pack the fruit down. Repeat until the bag is almost full.
    • Remove excess air, seal and place in freezer. Be sure to label each bag with the date you put them in the freezer.
    • Remove your frozen cherries as needed, but be sure to return unused cherries to the freezer immediately.

    How To Pit a Cherry

    Enjoying sweet cherries in a recipe or feeding them to young children? Follow one of these methods for removing cherry pits with ease.

    Pitting Cherries By Hand

    • Rinse cherries under cold water, and remove the stem.
    • Take an unused, standard-size paper clip and separate the two curved ends. This creates a flat ‘S’ shape.
    • Take the end that best fits the size of your cherry, and push it into the stem end of the cherry.
    • Once the paper clip reaches the end of the cherry pit, twist the paper clip and pop out the pit.

    Using a Cherry Pitter to Pit Cherries

    • Rinse cherries under cold water, and remove the stem.
    • Place the cherry on the curved part of the pitter, underneath the spike.
    • Squeeze the pitter so that the spike goes through the cherry, forcing out the pit.
    • Double check to make sure the pit has exited the cherry.

    How To Dry Cherries

    • Place washed, stemmed and pitted cherries in a single layer on a dehydrator rack – aim for ½” space around each cherry.
    • DRYING: Run the dehydrator at 135 degrees F for 24-30 hours (the time depends on your dehydrator, the amount of moisture in the cherries, and the air temperature where the dryer is located).Turn cherries after 2 hours to prevent them from sticking to the rack.
    • At the 24 hour mark, start checking for “done” cherries. Cherries that are fully dehydrated will not have moisture present when they’re cut in half. Dried cherries feel very much like raisins – just a bit sticky. Let the dried cherries cool for 5-10 minutes and then drop them into a clean and dry glass canning jar.
    • Remove cherries every hour that have completed the drying process until all cherries are dried.
    • CONDITIONING: Fill canning jars 2/3 full with dried cherries and place in a cool dark place. Twice a day for the next 10 days, gently shake the jars. This allows the moisture to redistribute evenly throughout the cherries. If you see mold, toss the cherries and wash the jar. Cherries that are too moist stick to the jar and can’t be shaken – if no mold is present, put them back in the dehydrator to remove the moisture and start the conditioning again. If your cherries are still loose and mold-free on day 10 they’re considered conditioned and should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months.

    How To Juice Fresh Cherries

    • Wash, stem, and pit cherries.
    • Process in a juicer. Reprocess the skins several times until all of the moisture has been removed. You’ll end up with small bricks of cherry skin which are very tasty and can be used in recipes, hot cereal, or smoothies.
    • Any foam that develops can be skimmed off if desired.
    • Cherry juice is best enjoyed immediately; however, if you want to store it and browning bothers you, add citric acid to prevent it.

    How To Juice Frozen Cherries

    • Allow pitted and stemmed frozen cherries to thaw in the refrigerator.
    • Process the thawed cherries in a juicer, with a potato ricer, or by hand. The leftover skins from the ricer and hand squeezing can be dried.
    • Any foam can be skimmed off with a spoon if you like.
    • If you’ll be storing your cherry juice, add citric acid to keep it from browning (optional).
    Date Published: April 24, 2015
    Date Updated: April 24, 2015

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