Bargain cherries at the market. Sweet. Right? Not always.
Recently, I bought pounds and pounds of cherries at a price that would make any B on a Budget happy, but found myself in a pickle when they started to go bad before I could eat, bake, jam or jelly them. They were about to become no cherry of a bargain.
The softening cherries were staring up at me from a colander on the kitchen counter as I was making a chicken tagine for dinner. Preserved lemons were marinating away, apricots sweetened with honey were on the stove cooking, and I was processing the harissa, when in a moment of inspiration–or shameful desperation, I’m not sure– I decided to pickle cherries as another side dish. Perfect.
I opened the cupboard and like a mad scientist started cooking. First, out came two jam jars to be sterilized. Then, rice wine vinegar, sugar and pink peppercorns, which I brought to a boil with a pinch of kosher salt. Not acid enough, so into the mix went a little white vinegar. Then I stuffed both jam jars with washed cherries. Into one went a tablespoon of preserved lemon, into the other just cherries, and over both I poured the hot mixture to the tippy top of each jar. Once cooled, I put them to keep in the refrigerator.
Since serving them with the chicken, I’ve used them with terrines and cheeses, chopped into salads with goat cheese and chicory, and sliced into sandwiches with Manchego and Speck.
Next time, I might try using only white vinegar, skipping the pink peppercorns and adding a sprig of rosemary, and/or a stick of cinnamon, and/or a whole star anise, and/or black peppercorns… The point? There are no rules. Experiment. The idea is simple: acid plus sugar plus whatever fruit/spice/herb mix suit your fancy. I have a surplus of whole plums sitting on the counter that I’m going to pickle today.
1 lb cherries
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
1 tablespoon preserved lemon (optional)
pinch kosher salt