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Back of the pantry - pickled cherries

"When I say pickled, I don’t mean the fruit should be kept lurking in a jar of malt vinegar and spices for six months." Nigel Slater

Six months - if only! Above are somewhat murky photos of some pickled morello cherries that I made à la Maggie Beer a few years ago now. I don't know when. Are they OK to eat? Mmm. Not sure. They don't smell gone off, and they don't look gone off and after all they are pickled aren't they - I mean there's lots of vinegar and sugar in there. In fact the pickling 'liquid' is no longer liquid. It seems to have solidified. So I shall ponder on whether to use them or not. The colour by the way is not very true in these photographs. They don't have a greenish tinge - they are just very dark - almost black and a tiny bit wrinkled - but the wrinkling is what you would expect. In a way they look more like olives than cherries. But it seems even Maggie Beer sometimes finds:

"a jar in the back of the cupboard that is more than a year old - and the cherries are always still good!"

So maybe mine would be OK.

I think I made them because I saw some Morello cherries in the Queen Vic market. Now these are rare so I bought them. An impulse buy, because I then didn't really know what to do with them, so I searched my books and found Maggie Beer's recipe. I must have used some in something, because, as you can see, there are not really all that many left. They can't have been that sensational though because I have no memory of whatever I did with them. So maybe I didn't do the right thing. Or maybe I just put them out with a nibbles platter, or cheese and they got eaten.

So in my intermittent series on what to do with things in the back of your cupboard, here are a few suggestions.

I doubt that any of you are going to find yourself with a glut of cherries - they don't have to be Morello - well maybe Monika - or anyone else with a cherry tree but if you do there are heaps of recipes out there, so obviously all the gourmets think it's something worth doing. Cherries are one of the most expensive fruit I think - and of course, for that reason, virtually the only fruit my younger son would eat when very young. They also have a very short season. Fortunately for us our trips to France almost always used to coincide with the cherry season. And do the French love their cherries! You can buy them cheaply by the roadside, or from little old ladies who have a tree in their garden, or if you are very fortunate you might rent a house with a cherry tree and so you can indulge. Or you may even find one by the side of the road - free cherries for all! So much so that eventually you grow sick of cherries - which is a bit hard to imagine.

When you are sick of eating them (when is that really?) as I said, you can pickle them, either to put away in the back of your cupboard to mature, or as a quick pickle to serve with one of those rich meats, or fatty fish, like pork, duck, venison, ham, mackerel ... And there are plenty of recipes for that kind of thing out there.

Nigel Slater has a recipe for Pickled cherries but what he means by pickled is:

"a quick 20-minute pickle, bright as a button, with star anise, black peppercorns, mild red wine and vinegar, and just enough sugar to stop your lips smarting." Nigel Slater

So not quite the same thing as mine, but nevertheless probably worth trying. He served his with mackerel.

Most of the recipes I found ended up with jars that looked more like this, than my rather gnarled dark version. Somewhat prettier really.

So back to what you can do with them. Beginning with the simplest, here is what Elizabeth David has to say on the subject, well the subject of hors d'oeuvre really after a meal at Mère Germaine's in Chateauneuf du Pape:

"The hors d'œuvre are beautifully served here, in small oval raviers of glowing deep yellow Provençal pottery. Brought on a basket tray which was left on the table so that we could help ourselves, they consisted only of olives, marinaded mushrooms, a rice and prawn salad, anchovies, these pickled cherries and tapénade. But the visual effect had been skilfully thought out, and against the yellow background these few simple things made a dazzling display of colour." Elizabeth David

I could not find a picture of the sort of thing she describes, although there may well be one lurking in my photo archive somewhere. But I did find some pictures of charcuterie platters and the like that included pickled cherries.

They might give you some ideas for what to do when next you have that big summer gathering. Oh when will that every be again? No I will not think that this will never happen again. It will, yes it will. I am sure sometime in the not too distant future we shall once again be able to lay out beautiful displays of hams, salamis, smoked fish, pickles, rillettes, terrines, grilled vegetables, and all the wonderful things that are a meal in themselves when gathered together. And so easy to do. Just as long as you have some good baguettes or sour dough to go with them.

I also found a couple of other quick and simple ideas. Labne and pickled cherry toast from the trendy café Cornersmith and this picture of bocconcini and pickled cherry skewers. No recipe for this, but you don't really need one do you? You can see what to do.

Then there's salads. There are oodles of suggestions for salads that incorporate pickled cherries with most of them suggesting bitter salad leaves as the most appropriate, or just incorporating the juice into the salad dressing. I guess that would be a bit like balsamic vinegar, and is probably worth trying. Well not for me. My juice has solidified. The salad shown here is Black forest salad with pickled cherries and comes from delicious but there are lots of other suggestions on the net.

And you needn't just restrict pickled cherries to the savoury part of a meal. Try this sweet suggestion from Nigel Slater:

"greedy for more of the pickled fruit, we ate thick yogurt sweetened with whipped cream, a pinch of sugar and the meanest seasoning of ground cinnamon. We then tipped a tiny spoonful of the cherries over the folds of creamy, spice-flecked yogurt." Nigel Slater

And I think I have even seen them suggested as a good accompaniment to vanilla ice cream.

But last of all I gather they are really good in cocktails, or so says the lady of Peck of pickles, and others too. Well now that I think of it I suppose 'cocktail cherries' are pickled cherries, so what is so surprising about that?

So I'm not quite sure what to do with them. I would love to have a party and just serve them as they are alongside charcuterie and/or cheese, but obviously that's not possible. Maybe I really should brave my husband's mild aversion to duck and do something with duck. Or I could chicken out and do it with pork instead. Or ham even. He likes ham.

Or of course, if you make a lot of them you can give them away and then somebody else can have the joy of discovering them several years down the track.


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