Pickled Cherries

Pickled cherries are a quick, easy, unexpected way to extend cherry season. Tartly sweet, subtly spiced, and surprisingly hard to stop eating, these little gems ably extend summer.

A mason jar mostly filled with pickled cherries, pickling liquid, star anise, and a cinnamon stick.

These pickled cherries are a little sweet, a little spicy, and altogether a stunning, simple, and conversation-starting way to take advantage of cherry season. The lightly spiced little lovelies are spectacular with cheese or charcuterie and, natch, both the cherries and their syrup take well to cocktails. Consider it a way to extend the ephemeral cherry season.–Renee Schettler

What are some uses for pickled cherries?

How to put pickled cherries to good use? Here are some of our preferred incarnations, but don’t let them stifle your imagination. Wanna share your intended use? We’d love to hear it. Let us know in a comment below.

Plop on a cheese board
Slip into cocktails
Toss into salad (and be certain to save the pickling liquid to dribble into the vinaigrette)
Nibble alongside charcuterie
Stir into pan juices of roast chicken or pork or duck
Toss into sparkling water along with the pickling liquid as a sort of cheater’s shrub

Pickled Cherries

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 20 M
  • 20 M
  • Makes 16 (1/4-cup) servings
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Special Equipment: 1-quart glass jar with a lid and a rubber seal, sterilized and funnel

Ingredients


Directions

If desired, remove the stems from the cherries. Do not remove the pits.

Combine the sugar, vinegar, and spices in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Increase the heat and boil rapidly until the liquid has reduced by about a third, 10 to 15 minutes.

Tester tip: To easily gauge when your mixture has reduced by 1/3, use a wooden skewer or popsicle stick as a depth gauge. Simply stick it in the pan at the beginning and make a notch at the depth of the liquid. Then, as you boil the mixture to reduce it, take the pan off the heat every 5 minutes or so to let the bubbles calm down and check the depth, continuing on until sufficiently reduced by about a third according to your measuring stick.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the cherries, and let cool to room temperature, 1/2 to 1 hour.

Pour the contents of the pan into a 1-quart glass jar with a lid and a rubber seal using a funnel. Close the lid and set aside in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks before opening. The contents should remain dark or bright red, depending on the type of cherries used, and the cherries will become wrinkled, somewhat similar to raisins.

Once opened, your jar of pickled cherries can be stashed in the fridge and will last for up to a month. Originally published August 30, 2017.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Quick! Run to your nearest farmer's market and make these now! These little red gems are destined to become a summer staple in my fridge. These are delicious—and I think they will be very versatile. On their own, they're a little tart, a little sweet, and a little spicy—nice on a ham and Cheddar sandwich or with a cold meat and cheese platter. I used them on crostini as an appetizer—crisp thin baguette slices, smear of soft goat cheese, sprinkle of baby arugula, and a little dice of the cherries. Delicious! I'll be saving the syrup to use as a base for a gastrique or to pickle some shallots in or maybe use in a vinaigrette. I can see it pairing well with a roasted beet and goat cheese salad, for instance, or just stir a spoon into some soda water for a quick cherry shrub. This is a real keeper!

I used sweet Bing cherries—they're the first to come to market in my area. The recipe came together in a snap—5 minutes to dissolve the sugar in the white wine vinegar and then another 5 minutes to reduce it by 1/3. I ended up with 3 cups liquid, which I poured over the cherries while it was still hot. After a couple of hours on the counter to cool, I hid the jar in the back of the fridge and tried to forget about them for 2 weeks. The cherries kept their color—still nice and plump after 2 weeks. They did float a little, I ended up with about 3/4 quart of cherries with some extra cherry vinegar syrup at the bottom of the jar.

Pure ambrosia or simply "umm umm good" is what I call this delicious treat! Even after growing up with grandparents who faithfully canned fruits and blanched vegetables, this was the first time I tried my hand at canning. With trepidation, I purchased my ingredients and quickly started prepping as soon as I arrived home, which took all of maybe 15 minutes, including washing the cherries.

Once all the ingredients were in the pot and the sugar started to dissolve, a lovely aroma wafted up from the pot after only 5 minutes. After another 5, the ingredients had boiled down nicely. I made a huge error then and submitted to curiosity by dipping one of my sweet Bing cherries into the mixture. Sweet, tangy flavor burst onto my tongue, the likes of which I can only liken to the childhood nostalgia of eating pickled peaches in South Georgia. I was not able to hold off for the requisite 2 weeks before tasting, but if the flavor improves any, I will be in cherry heaven.

The recipe makes a quart. I substituted a couple 1-pint Mason jars. I tried the recipe twice, once with pitted cherries and the other with the full cherries. No contest, I would keep the recipe as is with the full cherries. Usually I do not eat all of my cherries and allow them to spoil. Not anymore! Thank you for this lovely recipe!

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Comments

  1. I made this, but out of habit I poured the hot mixture over the cherries without waiting for it to cool…. I wonder if I ruined it 🙁 … I guess we will see.

    1. Jo, I think they’ll be fine. The cherries are supposed to be added to the liquid as soon as it comes off the heat.

  2. This is delicious. Can’t wait for the 2 week period then serving. I was wondering if processing this will keep longer than two weeks.

    I would like to make a larger quantity and give for gifts. Do I need to go through traditional canning methods or will this destroy the plump cherries?
    Thank you

    1. Donna, the cherries will likely keep for longer than 2 weeks in storage, however, you can water-bath process them if you’d like to store them for an extended period of time and give them as gifts. It will extend the shelf life, however, since we didn’t test this method, I can’t say if the texture of the cherries would be different.

  3. I don’t have star anise—is there something I can use as a substitute—also, with ingredients sparse at grocers right now…can I use cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar? Thank you

    1. Thank you for your quick reply…I went ahead and made this and it’s pickling as I write—looks wonderful, but my question is—why do we have to wait 2 weeks in order to enjoy this? Can we not have it 3 days later or what’s the story on that? Thank you.

      1. I’m so glad you tried these, Margaret! Although you technically could eat them right away, we encourage you to try and wait at least 2 weeks if you can so that the cherries have a chance to properly pickle. Trust us, it’s worth it!

    2. Margaret, we’d suggest using 1/2 teaspoon of five-spice powder in place of the star anise, but if you don’t have that on hand either, allspice or cloves could be swapped in for the star anise. Cider vinegar should be fine in place of the white wine vinegar.

  4. I’d like to try this recipe, but as someone who cans on a regular basis, I’m concerned about the safety of “open kettle” canning. Is there a reason why this can’t be processed in a hot water bath?

    1. I’m with you, Gloria. I am always a little nervous about canning without processing, though folks have been doing it for a long time. We don’t see any reason why this couldn’t be water-bath canned, or you could just let them sit in the refrigerator for the two weeks and plan to enjoy them in the weeks following that.

  5. This is the 6th time I’ve made this recipe. It never disappoints! To switch it up a bit, this time I also added 1 tbsp of pink peppercorns and 5 juniper berries. One of my favourite applications for these tart & sweet morsels is to serve with pâté, charcuterie, and game meat. I usually process one jar and save in the refrigerator for the holidays. The pickle juice is also amazing to flavour Kombucha after the second ferment. Going on vacation so staying away from these jars for 2 weeks will be easy!

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