For most kids, June signifies the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation. For me, it meant the end of school and the beginning of cherry season. I adored fresh cherries! I still do – especially the Bings. Their season is short – only about six weeks – beginning in early June. Every year at this time, I practically pant with anticipation as I wait for those sweet, succulent and sumptuous little jewels of nature to make their appearance in our local markets. Once they arrive, there’s no stopping me. I bake them into muffins, churn them into ice creams and stew them into compotes. That is, if I can keep myself from gobbling them all up right out of the bag!
There are those who may disagree, but some of the most prized cherries in the world come from the Pacific Northwest, particularly Washington and Oregon. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in both places during cherry season and am here to tell you that it’s true. There really is nothing like Pacific Northwest cherries.
You may recall that last summer, I had the good fortune of being a guest of the Oregon Board of Tourism at Full On Oregon, a food and wine event celebrating the bounty of the region. It was a foodie’s paradise! One of the highlights of the trip was a tasting luncheon featuring the best and brightest of Portland’s up and coming chefs. It was there that I fell in love with Chef Christopher Israel’s Spicy Pickled Cherries from Grüner Restaurant. In fact, I loved them so much that I begged for the recipe. And because I love you so much, dear readers, I want to share it with you.
These pickled cherries are delightfully deceptive – and wickedly addictive. At first glance, they look like regular Bing cherries, which are pretty fabulous on their own. But, pop one in your mouth and you’ll experience a harmonious mingling of sweet, spicy and tart. Before you know it, you’ll be looking into an empty jar and wondering what happened!
The cherries make a tasty nosh with your favorite libation, especially a nice, dry champagne. They go great with roasted pork, lamb and chicken, work well in salads and and are right at home adorning a cheese plate. Versatile and delicious is a winning combination.
They’re super easy to make too. The pickling liquid is brought to a boil, poured over fresh cherries and left to “cure” in the fridge. Chef Israel served his pickled cherries unpitted. I like to pit mine. I don’t think it matters, so the choice is yours. However you choose to make them – just do make them. You’ll be oh so glad you did!
Grüner’s Pickled Cherries
Chef Christopher Israel, Grüner Restaurant, Portland
Note: These cherries are pickled and not canned using a traditional heat process. However, I do recommend sterilizing your jars and lids in boiling water for 2 minutes before using them. You can also run them through the dishwasher. The cherries must be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for about 2 weeks.
- 2 1/2 pounds Bing cherries, pitted or unpitted
- 3 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks, about 3-inches long
- 2 bay leaves
- Fill four 16-ounce glass Mason jars with cherries.
- Combine remaining ingredients together in a nonaluminum saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Cover cherries with hot pickling liquid, leaving 1/4-inch head space at the top of each jar.
- Cover jars with metal lids and screw on the rings (bands). Cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for at least 1week before serving.