By Jessie Lehal
Pickling of any kind, channels my inner Martha Stewart. As an old school technique born out of pre-refrigeration necessity, pickling conjures up happy thoughts about simplicity and home. There was an entire summer where I focused on learning the art of pickling and canning. I learned the basics, made many mistakes, but my takeaway was a revival of nostalgic interests. Nowadays, my pickling takes a modern twist that focuses on aesthetics and ingredients rather than learning the skillset or kitchen logistics.
The pickling process is trivially easy. Creative, easy, and considering the ingredients, delivers a relatively high return on investment. Because the glass jar is not processed in a hot water bath, it will need to be refrigerated for storage.
You can use fresh Bing (dark sweet) cherries or frozen ones for this recipe. Bing cherries are the sweet, deep red, heart-shaped variety that you see in every supermarket. They are predictably stellar in crumbly desserts, a worthy accompaniment to savoury turkey or pork, and a surprisingly good candidate for pickling. Sweet and tart at the same time, crunchy, the seasonings in the pickling stop just short of overpowering the cherries.
The cherries sweet meatiness combines effortlessly with the tart vinegar and permeates perfectly with the spices. You can trim the cherry stems, or not. Pit them, or not. In my opinion, the cherries are prettier if you leave the pits in, and the pits add a nice, slightly almond flavour to the brine. My pickled cherries use garlic, chilies, ginger, cinnamon, and whole coriander seeds as flavouring. As they mature for a week or so, the vinegar and spices deepen to produce a sweet, sour, spiced pickled cherry that is absolutely delicious.
How to eat these pickled cherries? Add to your cheese platter, ploughman’s lunch, accompany grilled or roasted pork, turkey, even chicken. Add to a salad, make the cherry bruschetta listed below, or like me eat them straight out of the jar.
What to do with the remaining pickling liquid? Make a dressing, of course. A splash of extra virgin olive oil, Himalayan pink salt — and the pickling liquid. It’s an instant vinaigrette.
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 inch piece of ginger, cut into chunks
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 pound fresh or frozen cherries
In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, salt, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, garlic, ginger, and chili. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar.
Place cherries in a 1-quart (4-cup) glass canning jar. Pour in enough vinegar mixture to cover cherries and almost completely fill the jar; you can either strain out the whole spices or place them in the jar (I recommend the latter). Allow the jar to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 6 weeks.
Pickled Cherry Bruschetta
1/2 baguette, sliced 1/2-inch thick, toasted
1/3 cup whipped Greek yogurt cream cheese
½ cup Wickedly Addictive Pickled Cherries, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
Himalayan pink salt
Drizzle toast with oil, spread with cream cheese, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Top with cherries. Drizzle with more oil, if desired.
Jessie Lehail is the author of Indian Influence, a food blog that takes global eats and reinterprets them with a South Asian influence. Visit her blog at www.indianinfluence.ca.