The old community club cookbook I recently purchased at a stoop sale has a recipe in it called "Brandied Cherries." I assumed there would be brandy involved, but I was wrong. What I'd just stumbled across would make the best pickled cherries ever, but the brandying had nothing to do with brandy.
It turned out to be more of an old-fashioned method than a recipe. You can adapt it for however many cherries you happen to have. It is especially good when made with sour cherries.
As I mentioned, the old-fashioned name for these is either "pickled cherries" or "brandied cherries."
I find the first of those names confusing because pickled to many people implies a vinegar brine, and there is no vinegar in this recipe.
Equally confusing is the term brandied when there is not a drop of alcoholic brandy employed.
It turns out that brandying is an old-fashioned word describing a process that is a combination of a sugar preserve and a fermentation method. It works especially well with cherries or other fleshy fruit (divine with peaches or pears!).
These "brandied" cherries are so good that I doubt I'll bother making the vinegar pickle version again.
You can make these in a plain glass jar, but if you have a fermentation crock, by all means use it. Crocks are especially useful if you are fermenting a large quantity of fruit.
Note: It is important to use sour cherries for this rather than sweet cherries. If you use the latter, you are likely to end up with an alcoholic fermentation and a very different taste - still good, but not pickled.
How to Make Naturally Fermented Pickled Cherries
Wash, stem and pit the sour cherries. I highly recommend getting a cherry pitter to help with the process. They are inexpensive and you can use them for olives as well.
Weigh the sour cherries.
Add an equal amount, by weight, of sugar. Stir well. Let sit 2 hours. The sugar will begin to dissolve and combine with the cherry juices to form a syrup. Stir one more time.
If you mixed your sour cherries and sugar in a crock, weight the cherries down with the weights that came with the crock, or with a plate that has a can or jar full of water placed on top of it.
Leave to ferment for 2 - 4 weeks. During that time, remove the weight(s) once a day and stir the cherry mixture.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cherries to clean glass jars. It is not necessary to sterilize the jars for this recipe.
Ladle enough of the fermented sugar and cherry juice syrup over the cherries to cover the fruit. Tightly cover or cork. Store in the refrigerator, or in an unheated garage, or in a cool, dark cellar.
Spoon pickled cherries and some of their brine over a soft, mildly stinky cheese such as a camembert or brie. Also tasty over goat cheeses such as chevre and goat milk feta.
Spear on toothpicks and use instead of maraschino cherries in cocktails such as Manhattans.