As you might have guessed based on my recent blog posts, one of my favorite things about summertime is all of the exciting fresh produce. It seems like every time I open my eyes this time of year, I see something that I want to cook with. Recently it was the cherries that caught my eye when I was at the farmer's market where I live.
I've always loved cherries, especially when baked with flaky pastry. But this year, I really wanted to figure out a way that I would be able to eat cherries in the middle of winter. I didn't want to simply freeze the cherries (I have a very small freezer), so I decided to preserve them using vinegar. With some added spices, this is a great way to preserve the cherries since it adds a little extra flavor to them. I think these cherries would be great served as a treat on their own, and would be good as a side dish with grilled meat or Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. You could also eat them with fresh cheese, sweet cream or used as a cake filling or in cocktails. Once you've eaten all the cherries you are also left with a delicious cherry-infused spiced vinegar to use in salad dressings or spritzed drinks!
Sweet-And-Sour Preserved Cherries in Vinegar
2 lbs. cherries
1 quart apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar or honey
2 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
3 cloves or cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1/4 of a cinnamon stick
Cut the stems of the cherries to about 1/2 inch long. Wash and dry the cherries.
In a large pot, mix the vinegar, sugar or honey, molasses, cloves, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon stick and heat over low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally.
While the vinegar mixture is mulling, put the cherries into very clean jars that have lids, such as mason jars or smaller canning jars (I like to do a mixture of small/medium/large jars to give as gifts), making sure that they are packed into the jar lightly but tight enough that they won't move around too much when the liquid is added.
After the vinegar mixture has mulled for at least 30 minutes, increase heat to high and when the mixture almost boils, remove it from the heat and pour through a fine-meshed colander (to catch the leaves, cloves, etc) over the cherries that have been packed into the jars. Make sure that the cherries are fully covered with the vinegar mixture, but with a space between the vinegar and the top of the jar so that the vinegar doesn't touch the lid. Put the lids onto the jars as soon as the mixture has filled the jar.
Store upright in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 2 months before eating. They will last for over 1 year until opened. Once opened, try to eat them all within 1 month.
Serve with cold cuts, terrines, salads, ice cream, fresh cheese, in cakes or cocktails, etc. Once you have eaten all the cherries, use the leftover cherry-infused vinegar mixture for salad dressings or cocktails.
It feels so Little House On The Prairie to think of opening up a jar of bright red, sweet-and-sour cherries on a snowy winter's day, and it *almost* makes me excited for when that day will come this winter. Let me know in the comments below if you have other serving ideas for these delicious preserved cherries!