Sweet & Salty Spiced Pickled Cherries {for Canning}

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With a complex mix of flavors to please your palate, these sweet and salty pickled cherries are the absolute best way to save sweet cherries for later!

three jars of salty pickled bing cherries on a wooden cutting board.

Years ago, I followed this recipe for sweet and salty plums from Food and Wine.  They were absolutely heavenly. The brine was nothing like the thin, puckery brine for regular dill pickles. It was slightly thickened by the fruit juices, and it was a perfect mixture of salty, sweet, tangy, and fruity with these lovely notes from the star anise and other spices.

Although I couldn’t find this recipe for years, I thought about these plums all the time! I finally found the recipe and decided to adapt it this year to make with my favorite fruit: fresh cherries. The resulting pickles were just as delicious as the original recipe and absolutely worth sharing!

There are several changes in this recipe from the original one, including a different fruit, vinegar, and spice blend.

What are pickled cherries?

Just like pickling cucumbers, you can also pickle cherries! We often think of pickles as a savory thing, but there are so many different types of pickles.

Pickled Cherries are made by mixing fresh, pitted cherries with a mixture of Asian spices then topping them with a hot brine. Then, you seal the jars and process them in a water bath canner. This process will cook the cherries, making them absorb all those spices and flavors, and seal the jars for long-term storage.

Then, use these pickled cherries to top salads, serve with roasted meats (try roast pork!), to offer on a cheese board, or even to tuck into your favorite sandwiches. Even the brine tastes good, so you can use it as a quick salad dressing!

What you’ll love about this this pickled cherries recipe:


  • Sweet & salty: By adding brown sugar and lots of salt to the vinegary brine, this pickled cherry recipe has an amazing balance of flavors.
  • Perfect for salads: These pickled cherries are made for salads! The brine sticks to your toppings, adding a delicious flavor to every bite. I literally only make these for salads!
  • Quick project: Since we’re using a cold-pack method, you just need to fill jars with your fruit, then top them in brine. It’s much quicker than cooking down jams or preserves. Perfect for cherry season!
open jar of pickled cherries with cinnamon sticks and bing cherries on a blue and white towel.

Equipment

Like any canning recipe, you will need a variety of tools. You don’t have to can these pickles, though. You could easily turn them into quick pickles. In that situation, you won’t need the canner, funnel, lifters, or any of those supplies. Just cover the cherries with brine, pop them in the fridge, and eat them with 3-4 weeks.

  • cherry pitter
  • stockpot or water bath canner
  • ladle
  • canning funnel
  • jar lifter
  • magnetic lid tool
  • headspace tool
  • canning jars (4 pints or 8 half-pint jars)
  • jar bands and new lids
  • medium saucepan (for brine)
  • small saucepan (for lids and bands)
  • clean paper towel or cloth for rims
  • dry kitchen towel
ingredients to make sweet spiced pickled cherries with salt, brown sugar, star anise, cinnamon sticks, and more.

Ingredients

  • Fresh cherries:  Start with high-quality fresh cherries. You can use any type, like rainier cherries or even sour cherries, but I prefer this recipe with sweet Bing cherries.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar adds a mild sweetness that pairs well with the fruit and spices. This recipe is also great with unseasoned rice wine vinegar.
  • White vinegar: This is technically optional, depending on the acidity of the other vinegar you’re using. It’s important to use if you’re using rice wine vinegar or a lower-acid vinegar. I like the extra sharpness.
  • Brown sugar: Choose either dark or light brown sugar. The darker the color, the more of a molasses flavor you’ll have in your pickled cherries.
  • Kosher salt: Only use kosher or sea salt for this part. Table salt is too fine and will make your pickles way too salty.
  • Star anise: Add a half star anise to half pint jars or a whole one to pint jars.
  • Chinese 5 Spice: I like to add 1/4 tsp to each pint, so 1/8 tsp per half pint.
  • Allspice: Add 1 berry per half pint or two for pints.
  • Black peppercorns: Sprinkle 2-3 peppercorns per half-pint or 4-5 per pint.
  • Cinnamon sticks: Break each cinnamon stick into 2-4 pieces. Add 1/4 of a stick to each half pint or 1/2 to each pint.

How to Make Pickled Cherries

This is a cold-pack recipe. You’ll want to sanitize & heat your jars first by simmering them in your water bath canner or running them through your dishwasher. Fill your jars when they are still warm.

Prepare Canning Supplies

  1. Fill your water bath canner or large stockpot with water about 6 inches high. Set it over medium heat and add the clean jars you want to use. You’ll need to simmer the water for about 10 minutes to sterilize the jars.
  2. Add the brine ingredients to a medium sauce pan and set it to medium heat. Stir occasionally. 
  3. Place your new lids and bands in a small saucepan of water and set them over low heat.

Pack jars

  1. Set out the jars and add spices to the bottom of the jars (1-2 allspice, 3-4 peppercorns, 1/4 tsp 5 spice, up to 1 star anise).
  2. Pit and halve your cherries. Pack them into the jars. Add as many as possible without compressing them. Stay below the shoulders of the jar (the bottom of the screw top).
  3. When the brine is almost to a simmer, place the canning funnel into each jar and fill with brine. 
  4. Use the end of your headspace tool to remove any air pockets. Add enough pickling liquid to cover the cherries and leave a half-inch headspace. Fill all the jars.
  5. Use a wet paper towel or cloth to clean off the rims of your jars.
  6. Remove the lids and bands from the saucepan using the lid tool. Dry them off and place a lid on each jar. Tighten the band until finger tight. Seal all the jars.

Can the jars

  1. Gently place your jars into your water bath canner. If the liquid is hotter than the jars, gently dip the jars a few times before positioning them.
  2. Close the pot and increase to medium high heat. When the water starts boiling, start a 10 minute timer for half-pint jars or a 15 minute timer for pints.
  3. Carefully remove the jars from the water using the jar lifter. Set them on a clean, dry kitchen towel for 24-48 hours until fully sealed.
  4. Once sealed, remove the bands (not the lids) and store the jars at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
  5. If any lids do not seal, store them in the fridge within 24 hours.

How long do pickled cherries last?

Canned pickled cherries: Since these pickled cherries are canned, they are safe for long-term storage. The shelf life for most canning lids is technically 1 year, but I often eat properly canned foods up to 5 years later.

Quick pickled cherries: If you choose to store these pickles in the fridge instead of canning them, they’ll last for several weeks.

What to Do with Pickled Cherries

This is the best part! These pickled cherries are absolutely perfect for serving over salads. They’re also great on sandwiches, charcuterie boards, or even in some sparkling water for a unique homemade soda. But my very favorite use for pickled cherries is to serve them with salads!

The sweet, salty, tangy flavor tastes amazing with:

  • goat cheese
  • red onion
  • Marcona almonds or air fryer walnuts
  • roasted pork or chicken
  • sliced apples

Even the brine is full of flavor, and it takes on a saucy texture after canning. Drizzle some over your salad with olive oil and a little salt for a perfect topping!

Tips & Variations

  • Get the water really boiling. Don’t start the timer for your jars until the water in your canner is actually boiling.
  • Change the vinegar. This recipe is an adaptation of another recipe that uses rice wine vinegar. It adds a really mild flavor but can be a little more expensive than ACV. You can also use balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar for really rich flavor.
  • Adjust the spices. I love the mix of aromatic spices in these pickles, but you can add more or adjust them to your preferences. Consider adding coriander seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, or even fresh ginger.
  • Dip your jars: ​After cleaning your jars and packing them with hot liquid, they sometimes drop in temperature a bit. If you add cool jars to a boiling water bath, they will break. I recommend gently dipping your jars into the water a few times first to help the glass adjust before setting them in the canner.
  • Make quick pickles: You don’t have to can these cherry pickles! For firmer fruit and a milder flavor, fill your jars with hot brine, then pop them in the fridge. Let them infuse for 2-3 days, then enjoy within 3-4 weeks.
  • Add some heat: Give your pickles a spicy kick by adding a sprinkle of red pepper flakes in each jar.
spoonful of sweet pickled cherries recipe.

FAQs

Do you have to pit cherries before canning?

Although you technically don’t have to, they make it much easier to enjoy your pickles in the end. Otherwise, you’ll need to remove the pits while you are eating or before serving your preserves, pickles, or pie filling. It makes much more sense to put in the effort now and enjoy an easier, less tooth-breaking experience later.

What do pickled cherries taste like?

​Unlike cucumber pickles, pickled cherries have a rich, flavorful brine. My brine is made with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and white vinegar, so it’s got a stronger, fruitier flavor. Then, you add brown sugar and kosher salt for a slightly sweet and salty flavor. By adding fragrant spices like allspice and star anise, your pickled cherries end up with a mix of flavors. They’re a real flavor experience!

What can you do with too many cherries?

We love stocking up during cherry season! If you end up with too many cherries (if that’s even a thing), you can:
Make pickled sweet cherries
Can jam or preserves
Whip up some cherry jelly
Make cherry fruit butter
Pit and freeze them
Make cherry fruit leather
Dehydrate cherries
Make cherry vinaigrette
Create a cherry curd
Make cherry pie filling
Can them in syrup
Infuse them in alcohol
Make cherry extract
Turn them into purees
Ferment them
Make cherry wine

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Related Recipes

pin for how to pickles fresh pickled cherries.
jar of spiced pickled cherries on a blue and white towel.

Sweet & Salty Spiced Pickled Cherries

With a complex mix of flavors to please your palate, these sweet and salty pickled cherries are the absolute best way to save sweet cherries for later!
They're fantastic on salads, served on your charcuterie board, or eaten straight from the jar!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Appetizer, brunch, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 8 cups
Calories 326 kcal

Equipment

  • stockpot or water bath canner
  • ladle
  • Jar lifter
  • magnetic lid tool
  • headspace tool
  • canning jars (4 pints or 8 half-pint jars)
  • jar bands and new lids
  • medium saucepan (for brine)
  • small saucepan (for lids and bands)
  • clean paper towel or cloth for rims
  • dry kitchen towel

Ingredients
  

  • 2-3 lbs fresh cherries, washed, pitted, and halved
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar, optional; can replace with ACV
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt, or sea salt
  • 4 pieces star anise
  • 2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2-4 whole cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

Instructions
 

Prepare canning supplies

  • Fill your water bath canner or large stockpot with water about 6 inches high. Set it over medium heat and add the clean jars you want to use. You’ll need to simmer the water for about 10 minutes to sterilize the jars.
  • Add the brine ingredients to a medium sauce pan and set it to medium heat. Stir occasionally.
  • Place your new lids and bands in a small saucepan of water and set them over low heat.

Pack jars

  • Set out the jars and divide the spices evenloy to the bottom of the jars (for half-pints: 1-2 allspice berries, 3-4 peppercorns, 1/4 tsp Chinese 5 spice, up to 1 star anise, and 1/4 – 1/2 cinnamon stick).
  • Pit and halve your cherries. Pack them into the jars. Add as many as possible without compressing them. Stay below the shoulders of the jar (the bottom of the screw top).
  • When the brine is almost to a simmer, place the canning funnel into each jar and fill with brine.
  • Use the end of your headspace tool to remove any air pockets. Add enough pickling liquid to cover the cherries and leave a half-inch headspace. Fill all the jars.
  • Use a wet paper towel or cloth to clean off the rims of your jars.
  • Remove the lids and bands from the saucepan using the lid tool. Dry them off and place a lid on each jar. Tighten the band until finger tight. Seal all the jars.

Process pickled cherry jars

  • Gently place your jars into your water bath canner. If the liquid is hotter than the jars, gently dip the jars a few times before positioning them.
  • Close the pot and increase to medium high heat. When the water starts boiling, start a 10 minute timer for half-pint jars or a 15 minute timer for pints.
  • Carefully remove the jars from the water using the jar lifter. Set them on a clean, dry kitchen towel for 24-48 hours until fully sealed.
  • Once sealed, remove the bands (not the lids) and store the jars at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
  • Seal any jars that do not seal in the fridge within 24 hours.

Notes

This pickled cherry recipe is adapted from the recipe for sweet and salty pickled plums from Food and Wine.
Processing time:
  • 10 minutes for half pint jars
  • 15 minutes for pints
Add an additional minute in the canner for every 1,000 feet of elevation above sea level
    • Get the water really boiling. Don’t start the timer for your jars until the water in your canner is actually boiling.
    • Change the vinegar. This recipe is an adaptation of another recipe that uses rice wine vinegar. It adds a really mild flavor but can be a little more expensive than ACV. You can also try red wine or white wine vinegar for a rich flavor.
    • Adjust the spices. I love the mix of aromatic spices in these pickles, but you can add more or adjust them to your preferences. Consider adding coriander seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, or even fresh ginger.
    • Dip your jars: ​After cleaning your jars and packing them with hot liquid, they sometimes drop in temperature a bit. If you add cool jars to a boiling water bath, they will break. I recommend gently dipping your jars into the water a few times first to help the glass adjust before setting them in the canner.
    • Make quick pickles: You don’t have to can these cherry pickles! For firmer fruit and a milder flavor, fill your jars with hot brine, then pop them in the fridge. Let them infuse for 2-3 days, then enjoy within 3-4 weeks.
    • Add some heat: Give your pickles a spicy kick by adding a sprinkle of red pepper flakes in each jar.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 326kcalCarbohydrates: 79gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.2gSodium: 7094mgPotassium: 474mgFiber: 4gSugar: 72gVitamin A: 105IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 96mgIron: 2mg
Keyword allspice, apple cider vinegar, canning pickled cherries, pickled cherries, spiced pickle cherries, sweet cherries
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