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What is a Morello Cherry?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A morello cherry is a sour cherry cultivar. Morellos are distinguished by their very dark skin, flesh, and juice. They are extremely popular for things like cherry pie, cherry jam, and cherry preserves, and they are also used in an assortment of other desserts. The rich, complex flavor of the morello cherry complements an assortment of ingredients, especially chocolate. You may be able to find morello cherries at a market in season, and they are often available frozen; you can also try growing them, if you live in USDA zones four through eight.

Sour cherries are more formally known as Prunus cerasus, and at one point there were a number of sour cherry cultivars. Unfortunately, the advent of industrial agriculture led to a decline in overall crop diversity, including diversity among the sour cherries, and the morello was one of the few cultivars left behind. Agriculturally, the morello cherry is preferred because it flowers later than other cherries, reducing the risk of damage as a result of frost or severe storms.

One interesting trait of sour cherries is their resistance to pests and diseases, which is one reason why this cultivar has become so popular. The morello cherry is also self fertile, making it popular with gardeners who have limited space to dedicate to cherry cultivation, as a tree for the purpose of cross fertilization is not required. Cherry trees are relatively easy to cultivate, as long as they are planted in well drained soil and fertilized on a regular basis.

Alone, the morello cherry can be a bit too bitter to be pleasant. However, the bitter flavor is much more complex than that of sweet cherries, making morello cherries more suitable for desserts. They can also be used in savory dishes, as is common in the Middle East. People who like lightly sweetened desserts like to use sour cherries because the level of sweetener can be more easily controlled, ensuring that the dessert is not too intensely sweet. The dark color of the morello cherry is also desirable for many cooks, as it is quite striking.

When selecting morello cherries from your market, look for firm specimens without signs of mold, discoloration, or sliminess. Store the cherries for up to four days under refrigeration before use, and remember to wash them before you utilize them. If you're going to be working with a lot of morello cherries, you may want to consider acquiring a cherry pitter, which will make processing the cherries much easier. If you want to freeze the cherries for later use, spare yourself some heartache and pit them before freezing.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon235764 — On Dec 19, 2011

Nigella Lawson makes Chocolate Cherry Trifle with Morello. I have not made it yet but the reviews are great. Look her up online.

By anon103929 — On Aug 14, 2010

Black Forest Cake

Soak the cherries overnight in kirsch for sumptuous results.

6 eggs, separated

1 cup (250 mL)sugar

3/4 cup (185 mL) vegetable oil

3/4 cup (185 mL)water

1 2/3 cups (415 mL) self-rising flour

1 1/4 cups (310mL)chocolate milk powder

1 jar pitted morello cherries

1 tbsp (15mL) cornstarch

3/4 cup (185 mL)kirsch

2 1/2 cups (625mL)whipping cream

Caraque (see recipe below)for decoration

Cake: Preheat oven to 350F(180C)

Beat egg yolks with sugar until light and frothy. Add oil and water, beating constantly.

Sift flour and chocolate milk powder. Add to egg mixture and combine well.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. field into chocolate mixture. Pour into greased 9 in. (23cm) springform cake pan. Bake in 350F (180 C) oven for 1 hour. Allow to cool in pan.

Filling: Drain cherries, reserving syrup. Pour kirsch over cherries, cover and soak overnight or as long as possible. Drain again, reserving kirsch. Combine reserved syrup and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add cherries and cook until thickened. Allow to cool.

Assembly: Cut cake in half horizontally, brush with reserved kirsch. Reserve 12 cherries and spread the remaining cherry mixture on one cake layer. Place second layer on top and spread both with whipped cream. Cover top and sides with chocolate caraque. Decorate with reserved cherries and dust cake with sifted icing sugar just before serving.

CARAQUE:2 oz (60g) dark chocolate

walnut-size piece of butter

Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler. Allow to cool a little, then pour onto hard flat surface, such as marble or tile. Spread it out quickly with a spatula.

When chocolate is firm but not completely hard, scrape the surface with heavy kitchen knife or a metal spatula warmed in hot water. Put the blade at a 45 degree angle to the table and push. Chocolate will form long cylindrical curls which will break very easily, so treat with care. Avoid touching caraque if possible, as the warmth of your hands will melt the chocolate very quickly.

By anon102136 — On Aug 06, 2010

There is a Morello cherry and almond tart recipe from Simon Hopkinson's column in The Independent newspaper that was reprinted for The Art of the Tart by Tamasin Day-Lewis. She references the origin of the recipe at the famous Box Tree at Ilkley in Yorkshire. Hope this helps!

By behaviourism — On Jul 19, 2010

@widget2010 I agree, sour cherries are delicious and resilient plants, and useful in many different dishes. While it is good that the morello at least is cultivated, the loss of other varieties is unfortunate.

By CellMania — On Jul 19, 2010

Does anyone happen to have a recipe that calls for morello cherries? Not many people like the tartness of it but I really like it a lot. I have yet to find any recipes calling for morello cherries.

By widget2010 — On Jul 19, 2010

This is an unfortunate example of how industrial farming has limited available foods, leading to fewer ingredient and recipe options and less awareness of different foods.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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