Lightly Pickled Sweet Cherries

June 23, 2016(updated on August 30, 2021)

Lightly pickled sweet cherries in jars

Sour cherries are one of my very favorite things to preserve. Sadly, thanks to a late freeze back in April, it is proving to be a very bad year for stonefruit in the Philadelphia region. Sour cherries are proving to be very hard to come by.

two and a half pounds of sweet cherries in a colander

Instead of bemoaning the 2016 sour cherry situation (though I must confess, I was able to get some from my friends’ community garden, so I’m not totally without them this year), I decided to take some of the sweet cherries from the Northwest Cherries shipment, and do what I could to give them a flavor profile similar to that of a sour cherry.

quartered cherries in the sink

I measured out two and a half pounds of the sweet cherries and using my trusty paring knife, cut them in quarters and wiggled out the pits (I don’t like using cherry pitters, because I resent how much cherry flesh you lose with every pit. Quartering them is fiddly work, but so much more of the fruit ends up in the pot).

lightly pickled sweet cherries in a stainless pot

Once the cherries were prepped, I combined them with sugar, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice and let them sit until all the sugar was dissolved. Then I set the pot on the stove, brought it to a boil, and cooked the fruit until the cherries were tender (but not falling apart) and the liquid had thickened slightly.

Lightly pickled sweet cherries in jars close-up

Towards the end of cooking, I took a tiny taste of the syrup in the pot and was so happy with the results. Bright, sweet, and just tart enough that you feel a pleasant shiver in the back of your throat. This is one for sparkling water, pairing with cheese, or eating with a pork chop.

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Lightly Pickled Sweet Cherries


  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet cherries pitted and quartered
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  • Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 4 half pint jars.
  • In a large, non-reactive pot, combine the cherries, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice.
  • Give the contents of the pot a good stir and let the cherries sit until the sugar dissolves.
  • When you’re ready to cook, put the pot on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it starts to roll, reduce the heat to medium-high.
  • Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the liquid in the pot thickens and the cherries soften.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Ladle the cherries into the prepared jars. Wipe the rim, apply the lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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12 thoughts on "Lightly Pickled Sweet Cherries"

  • Can Rainier cherries be used in this recipe? I’m not sure of the different kinds of cherries or if there are even different kinds! Thanks in advance!

    1. You could use Rainier cherries. Just know that the finished preserve will be a lot lighter in color.

  • These sound wonderful. I just read an article about pitting cherries…to put the stem end down in the pitter and the round side up.
    That pesky little plug of flesh stays with the cherry that way. I have not yet tried it, but I will be excited to see if it works.

    1. Yep, that’s how you do it – upside down. Most pitters have a little slot on the bottom for the stem. Then you get that cross mark on the bottom like a pitted olive. (You can also use a cherry pitter on olives.) You do lose a pit-sized bit of flesh. Considering my talents with a paring knife, that’s probably a better yield than doing it Marisa’s way.

  • We got no sour cherries either in Maryland/Virginia. It’s a huge bummer for me. Might have to try assuaging my sorrow with some sweet cherry preserves. 🙂

  • Is it possible to re-can/preserve jarred cherries? I got a few jars of the Morello sour cherries from Trader Joe’s and I’m wondering if I can do something else with them like this recipe or brandied cherries and waterbath can them, or if you have to start from fresh for it to be safe or tasty. Thanks!

    1. You don’t want to take those canned cherries and turn them into something else. You need to start with fresh.

  • Several years ago when sailing our Shark Catermaran sail boat national races we camped in Traverse City Michigan. The cherries were in season. I decided to make my own cherry preserves instead of buying close to 10 jars form family gifts. It was cheaper to buy cherries ,jars sugar and a boiling water bath canner. I did them over a Coleman camp stove. The bing sweet cherry were ripe at the time. On another note my Mom planted 15 sour cherry trees at her family farm. She made sour cherry preserves and canned sour cherries to make pie. This year I just tried a sweet cherry spiced pickle. Whole cherrie with stem and pit with vinegar, sal and a spice clove. They are ok but I now think I would like them without the spice. I serene them on a tray with other pickles and olives.

  • These are delicious! I ended up taking the cherries out of the liquid a bit early so it could thicken up without getting mushy cherries. I can’t wait to make more!