I’ll be straight with you-- I have a pickle obsession. Spicy pickles, sweet pickles, fruit pickles, vegetable pickles. A daily jar of pepperoncini peppers got me through the first trimester last year, these pickled watermelon rinds got me through the second, and salt and vinegar chips got me through the home stretch. But I like vinegar even when I’m not pregnant, and cherries in vinegar are no exception. As far as pickling fruit goes, cherries are one of the best subjects out there. Their firm flesh stands up to the vinegar brine and their sweet, fruity flavor is a wonderful canvas for spices and herbs.
so how do you pickle cherries?
In this case, I’m making quick pickles. I simmer sweetened apple cider vinegar brine with a few aromatics then pour it over the fruit while it’s still piping hot. I prefer to not cook the cherries at all, which helps to preserve their firm, meaty texture. They also last longer in the brine this way.
I love how fast and easy these quick pickles are compared to the process of full on canning in a water bath. The simplicity makes it that much easier to save a bowl of cherries that might otherwise be forgotten in the back of the fridge. It’s fun to play with the types of aromatics, vinegar and sugar, but I always come back to this version. I can never get enough of the bracingly tart vinegar countered by juicy cherries, thyme and black pepper.
how do you use pickled cherries?
My husband and I love to snack on them straight from the jar, but these pickled cherries are a fun ingredient to use in a variety of dishes.
here are a few ideas:
tossed in salads (they’re especially great with arugula! or as replacement for the roasted grapes in this butternut squash salad)
on a cheese and charcuterie board
used in cocktails (like this sour cherry bellini but even better, or as a twist on the classic manhattan)
on a crostini (I love them with fresh cheeses like goat cheese, burrata, mozzarella and ricotta)
as a relish for grilled meats, or in a pan sauce for roast meats
as a topping for ice cream or frozen yogurt (especially if you make the alternate version with warm spices!)
notes on how to make the pickled cherries:
these are quick pickles and must be refrigerated! They are not canned and can’t safely be left at room temperature in the pantry.
I prefer to keep the spices in the brine so the cherries continue to pick up flavor as they soak. You can always strain the spices out for a more subtle pickled cherry. If you’re leaving the spices in, go easy with the red pepper flakes! Keep it to a small pinch, because the cherries will just keep getting spicier with time (unless that’s what you want!).
if you want a pickled cherry with sweeter aromatics, try this alternative:
replace the thyme, peppercorns, fennel, red pepper flakes and bay leaf with 1 cinnamon stick, 3 star anise pods, 5 cloves and 1-2 strips of orange zest. These are especially delicious around the holidays!
use a cherry pitter! It makes the job so much faster.
pickled cherries with black pepper and thyme
1 pound fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
3- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
pinch red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
Fill two glass pint jars (or 1 glass quart jar) with cherries and tuck in thyme sprigs. Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine 3/4 cup water with vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.
Carefully pour hot brine over cherries until 1 inch of headspace remains in the jars (strain through a fine mesh sieve first, if desired, for a milder pickled cherry). Cover jars and cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
Cherries are best after at least 24 hours of pickling. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
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