Love and Olive Oil

Pickled Sweet Cherries

Pickled Sweet Cherries

A surplus of cherries is a problem I’m not used to having. But alas, I was faced with a few pounds of cherries, more than we could eat before they went bad.

As I flipped through my canning books looking for a cherry jam recipe, something else caught my eye.

Pickled cherries.

It sounded both bizarre and intriguing at the same time. I’d heard of people pickling fruit but had never actually tried it.

And since our busy schedules left very little time for a typical batch of canning, the fact that the pickle could be made and canned in under 20 minutes was extra appealing.

And look, ma, pits! The cherries are pickled whole so the stray-pit-problem was no longer an issue.

Pickled Sweet Cherries

I made two batches, one with sweet Bing cherries and spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. The other soaked the Rainier cherries in a vinegar brine with black peppercorns and bay leaf. The flavor differences were subtle, but one came out tasting (as Taylor put it) “like Christmas,” while the other was a tad more savory.

Pickled Sweet Cherries

As for what to do with them, I had a sheet of leftover puff pastry dough, which I cut into rounds and formed into cups. Filled with goat cheese and topped with chopped pickled cherries, they made for an unusually delicious appetizer. The cherries come out of the brine tasting both tart and sweet, like an amplified version of the fresh fruit we love so much. I think they’d also be stellar tossed in a salad or thinly sliced on a juicy burger.

Pickled fruit – who knew?

(Psst! Download the printable labels for this jam here!)

Pickled Sweet Cherries

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Version 1 – Spiced Brine:
1 3/4 cups white vinegar
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks (about 4-inches long)
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 pounds dark sweet cherries with stems

Version 2 – Savory Brine:
1 3/4 cups white vinegar
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
black peppercorns (4 to 5 per half-pint jar)
bay leaves (one per jar)
2 pounds Rainier sweet cherries with stems


Prepare canner and wash/sterilize 4 to 5 half-pint mason (or equivalent) jars. Keep jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready to use. Warm lids in hot (not boiling) water to sterilize and soften seal.

Combine vinegar, sugar, water, and spices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Remove hot jars from canner and pack cherries into jars. Pour hot brine over cherries to within 1/2-inch of rim. Wipe jar rims and threads. Screw on lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (for half-pint jars, process 15 minutes for larger pint jars). Remove from water and let cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within 3 weeks.

Adapted from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving and Food in Jars.

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  1. wow !
    I gonna try to do it next weekend !
    thanx a lot for these recipes !

  2. I just wanted to say…I made some of these during the fall of 2012 using the “version 1: Spiced Brine” recipe.  I ran out of cherries and still had brine left, so me being the type of person who can’t let a good brine go to waste, looked around to see what else I could use it for.  I had just made nectarine jam and still had a few nectarines left, so I decided to use those.  I did not peel the nectarines, but I sliced them into wedges and I canned them using the remaining brine.  I can’t begin to tell you how amazing those nectarines tasted!  I plan to use your brine recipe to can more nectarines this year, now that we are finally out of them on our shelves.  They go really good with a Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet (as do the cherries, too!).  Thank you for such fantastic recipes!

  3. How did you make/print the gift tags? They are beautiful! Can’t wait to try these recipes!

  4. Fantastic. Last year, I made the Better Homes and Gardens Canning magazine’s Vanilla-Scented Pickled Sweet Cherries (white balsamic, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, almond extract, optional kirsch liqueur), and although I loved them, I wasn’t sure how other people might react. However, I brought them to a picnic, and everyone RAVED about the fantastic flavor of the cherries without even realizing they were pickled!

    I’m glad to find your recipe -I hate refrigerating food that could be shelf-stable! The only problem with adapting the BHG recipe might be some of the kirsch would evaporate -no big deal!

    Also, I’ve read that blanching the cherries in salted water, then rinsing before preserving will help them keep their texture, and adding a bit of beet juice will help them stay bright red. Any thoughts?

  5. I need to try canning! I feel like I could experiment to the ends of the Earth with intriguing flavors :)

  6. Wow-this sounds so unusual and delicious! Love the tarts :)

  7. Gorgeous pictures … what a good idea as a gift … I love the home-made tag !

  8. It’s good to see you’re finding good use for all those cherries you smuggled back home. That ice cream is definitely calling to me. And I’ve never tried anything like this so I am definitely going to have to try this too.

  9. you should make cinnamon pickled beets. they are amazingly delicious.

  10. Great idea! I love both your versions!

  11. This looks so good. Is there any reason I couldn’t pit the cherries? I’d almost hate to give people cherries with pits in them …

  12. I love cherries! That looks really good!

  13. We ended up with more cherries than we knew what to do with too and experimenting with them was tons of fun! If I still had cherries on hand, I would definitely try pickling them. Both versions you guys made sound awesome!

  14. I’ve never made anything like this, so I am excited to try it out! HAPPY FRIDAY!

  15. Love this idea!!! I love anything pickled and these look liked they’d be good on so many things. From sweet to savory!

  16. Now you’ve got my attention! I love anything pickled! and cherries are a brilliant idea. Thank you, thank you! XOXO

  17. Ok this is awesome!! My grandma used to can everything, and I do mean everything. She would pickle and can watermelon rinds. Sounds hideous, I realize, but actually, I am thinking really similar to your cherries. The rind softened, absorbed that wonderful brine and it’s just a delicacy. I know, one of those things that just sounds wretched but seriously, I have searched the earth for stores that sell them and have bought some online and had them shipping – not the same as hers, obviously.

    Now I want to try your brine and pickling method for various fruits. I recently got into canning hot pepper jelly and love it.

    When you say pack the cherries and then top with the brine, how packed is packed?

    And one final question just to annoy you…do you think if one was going to eat these soon, that the step of actually canning in the water bath is necessary or changes the flavor? Or is it just a food preservation step. I would not need to “preserve” these…they’d be gone, soon!

    • I packed as many cherries as I could into the hot jars. You can see they kind of ‘floated’ and there’s quite a bit of space in the bottom of the jars, so maybe I could have done a better job. I don’t know if larger pint jars might be more practical?

      Also – you can definitely make the pickle and skip the canning step. We had a bit of leftover brine and so I filled 4oz jars with cherries and the brine, and then just put those in the refrigerator. They probably stay a little firmer since they are never exposed to heat, but I’d assume the flavor is the same. That’s actually what we used for the goat cheese puffs (since the other jars are sealed and I didn’t want to break them)! I’d give them a good 3-5 days to sit in the brine before eating them.

  18. As soon as I saw this, I just went “oooooh!!” I can’t wait to make this!

  19. No pitting needed! Now that is my kind of recipe!
    Still lots of cherries here in CO so I may have to try this as my next appetizer dish to bring to a pot luck.

  20. I love the combination of spicy and sweet, so I will check if I can get any cherries soon to try this.

  21. I’ve never seen anything like these! As soon as cherries come down from $6.99 and pound, I’m going to give this a try! :)

  22. There is also an interesting savory recipe for cherries in The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. Cherry Mostarda.

  23. I saw this in The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving and have been eager to try it. Glad to hear a good review of it. Now I will try it for sure. I had so many cherries I had to freeze them lest they go bad before I could process them all.

  24. I would never have thought to pickle cherries but I love your description of them, they sound really delicious.

  25. Wow, really? I trust you–I really do–but this sounds crazy! Also crazy-sounding: a surplus of cherries. :) I had $6 worth of Rainier cherries in the fridge that vanished at an astonishing rate. Next time you have too many, you just let me know. Ha!

  26. Very cool!

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