Doing a big batch of pickled cherries at the end of the year is something I started doing the Christmas before Berta opened and has now become somewhat of a ritual. It can become a little labour intensive to score all the cherries, especially when doing a large batch, so it’s a job best to do sitting around with some friends and a glass of prosecco. Apart from the fact they look so pretty, they make for a very tasty pickle that can be used in so many ways.
I always try to eke them out so they last the whole year, saving them for special occasions. This is silly I know because I do actually make them to use.
- 1 kg cherries
- 800 ml red wine vinegar
- 400 ml water
- 1 cup caster sugar
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time at least 6 months
Makes 1 large jar
Gently wash the cherries, leaving the stalks attached and place them in a colander to drain. One by one, take each cherry and lightly score the underside with a small cross.
Place the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiled add the spices and bay leaf.
Now you need to sterilise your jar. There are many ways to do this but one of the easiest is to gently lower your jar into a large pot of boiling water, let it sit for a minute and then carefully remove with tongs without spilling boiling water on yourself. Use some paper towel to give it a quick wipe.
Place your cherries in the jar and pour over the hot pickle liquor until it reaches the top, making sure all the spices find their way in. Give your jar a good few taps on the bench to remove any air bubbles. Cut out a round of baking paper to the size that will fit snugly over the top of the cherries, and then top up your jar with a little more liquor. You want to make sure all the cherries are submerged.
Seal the lid tightly, write a little date on the top and then put your jar next to your other jars of pickled garlic that you made last month. Admire and start getting excited about all the things you can make with them.
Pickled cherries go particularly well with pates, terrines and cured meats. The rich and fatty flavour of these tasty treats works so well with the natural sweetness of the cherries that have an extra dimension with the almost tart like pickled ness.
You can also use your pickled cherries to good use in a salad. Take them out of the liquor and pit them before adding them to a salad of bitter greens with a little radicchio and lots of herbs, they go particularly nicely with chervil.
The sweet tart nature of them is also a perfect match with many cheeses. I’d either suggest a nice hunk of aged crumbly Infossato (an interesting Italian sheep’s milk cheese) or even a large piece of soft creamy three milk cheese like La tur (another tasty Italian cheese).
Another good use for pickled cherries would be saving them for next Christmas and serving them with a glazed ham before lying on the couch and savouring a bowl of fresh ones whilst gathering your energy to do another batch of pickled cherries.
• I’m sure I’ve said it before – the art of pickling is very exciting. It is an easy project to undertake at a beginners level but can easily become an obsession with endless variations.
Photographs by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd.