Last month when I started telling you about My Favorite Ingredients, I mentioned the cherry chapter in the book and how I was looking forward to the start of the season. Well, it is upon us, and I now believe there is no quantity of cherries in my refrigerator that would be too much. Pickled cherries is the first recipe in that chapter, and I’d been thinking about them for weeks. I imagined vinegary, sweet, little bites of fruit with hints of spice served alongside a soft cheese with some personality. Also, there would have to be some bread and maybe a really good beer to accompany the cherries and cheese. As soon as I found cherries in town, I set about pickling them, let them sit all of one week as I couldn’t wait another day, I baked some bread, visited my favorite local cheese shop, and the plan became a reality. I chose Leonora cheese from Spain which is a soft-ripened, aged goat cheese, and I grabbed a bottle of Saison Dupont otherwise known as my new favorite, summer beer. It all came together as a snack that makes the word snack seem inadequate.
To pickle the cherries, they were washed and left with pits and stems intact. Sugar was dissolved in red wine vinegar and bay leaves, cloves, and peppercorns were added. The mixture was brought to a boil, simmered for ten minutes, and allowed to cool. The cooled syrup was poured over the cherries, and I stored them in the refrigerator. The longer they sit, and they can remain refrigerated for up to one year, the more wrinkly the cherries will become. Since I couldn’t wait longer than a week, mine were still mostly plump.
In the book, pickled cherries are used in a warm pheasant salad with tardivo and toasted hazelnuts. That sounds like a wonderful fall dish, but I don’t think I’ll have any cherries left by then. Maybe I can come up with something more summery for a salad with notes of bitterness for balance. Something with arugula could work or possibly grilled romaine. While I think about that, I’m ready to make the cherry cordial and the brandied cherries from the book, and then I might have to pickle some more before the season ends.