Sweet or Savory, Always Special
In America, spiced cherries in brandy are used as a dessert topping. In France, cerises au vinaigre, spiced cherries pickled in vinegar, are served with charcuterie and pâté instead of (or along with) gherkins. Australians like spiced cherries as a condiment with cheese.
You can purchase sweet, brandied cherries at most specialty food stores. Tasmanian sweet-and-tart spiced cherries from Australian producer 34° Foods With Attitude has just been introduced to the American market.
Our own flexible recipe is the best of all worlds: like 34°, it combines red wine and red wine vinegar; it uses some sugar in the marinade so the cherries work both as a savory condiment with meats (hot and cold meats plus sandwiches) as well as a dessert sauce on ice cream, sorbet, pudding and pound cake.
You can make this recipe two weeks in advance—in fact, the longer the cherries marinate, the tastier they’ll be. Spiced cherries make great hostess gifts: once pickled, they will last for a month or longer.
- 1 pound fresh cherries, stems on*
- 1-1/2 cups good quality red wine vinegar
- 1-1/2 cups pinot noir or other fruity red wine or port
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves (3 or 4 cloves)
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into 2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup white or brown sugar (optional)†
- 1/4 cup cherry brandy [kirsch] (optional)‡
*You can make this recipe with canned cherries as well: not as delicious, but they work in a pinch
†We don’t like to add sugar where it isn’t essential; but if you will be using the cherries as a dessert condiment rather than as a pickle, sugar is a good idea. For a deeper flavor, use brown sugar instead of white. You can reduce the calorie count by substituting sweetener like Equal® or Splenda®, adding it to the liquid after cooking. You can also add more sweetness by using 2 cups wine, 1 cup vinegar.
‡ For dessert cherries, you can add cherry brandy.
1. Wash and dry the cherries, taking care not to detach the stems.
2. Combine the vinegar, wine, lemon rind and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add the spices and simmer over a low flame for three minutes. Add the cherry brandy, remove from heat, and let cool.
3. Select a lidded container that provides the maximum contact between the cherries and the marinade. Put the cherries into the container, and pour the cooled wine and vinegar mixture over them. Seal and refrigerate anywhere from overnight to two weeks. The longer the cherries marinate, the more flavor they will acquire.
4. If you have the equipment to make preserves, you can preserve the spiced cherries for longer-term use. Pack the cherries into sterilized jars, seal, and process them for ten minutes in a boiling water bath. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.