Now, normally I can what's in season here in my part of the world, and that does not include cherries. In fact, I have never purchased cherries that were grown here in NC, and I am not even sure that they can grow here (maybe in the mountains), so my hours of cherry canning experience totaled zero. I was very excited to get to experience fruit that I had never dealt with before, and to have access to something different. The problem I faced was trying to find ways to use all those cherries!
I decided to try several recipes and methods of preserving them. I made a small batch (4 pints) of pickled cherries, 4 pints of cherries in amaretto liqueur following this recipe (I did process them for 25 minutes rather than 15 though as that is the standard processing time for raw pack cherries in syrup), and another 5 pints of cherries in syrup using the same syrup as for the amaretto cherries but omitting the liqueur.
I also dried two quarts after pitting them which gave me about a quart of dried cherries for salads, sauces, etc, and I froze five quarts of pitted cherries for later use in pies and desserts. All in all, barely a cherry went unused, and I was pretty proud of myself for going through them all.
I have opened a jar of the cherries in syrup, and they are tasty. I know the others will be as well. Oh, and I almost forgot, I also used two quarts of crushed cherries to start a batch of Cherry Bounce. Cherry Bounce is made with crushed cherries, sugar, and bourbon. You let the cherries sit in the fridge for 3-4 weeks, and then you use the liquid as a mix in for lemonade, tea, or even to deglaze the pan when making a sauce for pork chops. I'll let you know how it turns out once it is finished.
For now, I hope you enjoy this recipe for pickled cherries. You can adjust the spices in the jar as you wish. I used a cinnamon stick, but peppercorns, whole cloves, or whole allspice would work also. You can also use white vinegar if you prefer. I used the apple cider vinegar for a sweeter, fruitier pickle.
One word of caution, some recipes called for gently pricking the cherries before putting them in the jar while others did not. Since the cherries are processed whole with pits and stems still intact, the idea of pricking is that the cherry skin will not split as easily. I took the lazy route and tried without pricking, and some of the skins did split. I don't mind that because I'm going to the one eating them, but if you plan to give them as a gift or serve them for a special occasion, you may want to prick each cherry once on the bottom before placing it in the jar.
Sweet Pickled Cherries- makes 3 pints
A few notes on this recipe. You may choose whatever whole spices you like, but don't change the amount or strength of the vinegar. I also increased the pickling liquid by half so that I would have a little more which is how I ended up with 4 pints rather than 3.
1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
3 cinnamon sticks
2 pounds sweet cherries with stems and pits intact
Prepare your jars and lids. Jars should be kept warm in the canner.
Combine vinegar, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar is dissolved.
Remove hot jars from canner. Pack each jar with cherries, and add one cinnamon stick to each jar. Pour hot syrup over cherries leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and place lids and rings on each. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove jars from canner and cool.