Pickled Sweet Cherries

August 6, 2010(updated on August 30, 2021)

pickled cherries

I grew up in a family with a fairly limited condiment scope. We ate ketchup on burgers, grainy mustard on hot dogs and sausage and dipped steamed broccoli florets into little puddles of mayonnaise. Pickles were cucumber dills, either eaten whole as a snack, or sliced and blotted before being stacked in a sandwich. Jam was strawberry or plum (made from the fruit off our backyard trees) and salad dressing was Good Seasonings, made from the spice packet in the branded cruet.

cherries packed in jars

This isn’t to say I grew up in a community of boring eaters. We were among the first people I knew to regularly stock teriyaki sauce and my mom liked to make the Good Seasonings dressing a little more interesting with the addition of balsamic vinegar or toasted sesame oil. Real maple syrup was the rule. In fact, my brief devotion to the fake stuff caused my father a great deal of anguish. There was always soy sauce in the fridge and we had a wicked pickled ginger phase after my parents’ early nineties trip to Hawaii.

bay and peppercorns in jar

In recent years, it’s been deeply gratifying to branch out beyond my childhood condiments (although I still firmly believe that ketchup on a hot dog is sacrilege) and explore a broader world of homemade flavor. However, until very recently there was an area I’d yet to broach.

Pickled fruit.

I toyed with a recipe for pickled Seckel pears last fall, but preserved them in a gingery syrup instead. I contemplated pickled blueberries, but opted to simply eat the last of my picking out of hand. I was uneasy about it, fearful I’d make something off-putting and end up wasting good food.

life is just a bowl of

However, when faced with nearly eight pounds of juicy, ripe cherries from the Washington State Fruit Commission (thanks Sweet Preservation), I knew the time was ripe to pickle. I consulted several recipes and concocted a brine that was sweet and tart. I added a few peppercorns for spice and a bay leaf for nuance to each jar, packed the cherries in and hoped for the best.

As you might have guessed, my expectations were far too low. These pickled cherries are amazing! They are sweet and puckery, and despite the water bath, managed to retain a bit of that snap and gentle crunch you get when you first bite into a really good cherry. I am smitten. If you are still able to get sweet cherries in your area I highly encourage you to make a batch.

Oh, and one more thing. If you live in the Philadelphia area, there’s going to be an opportunity for you to taste these, along with a couple other pickles I’ve made recently, so keep your eyes peeled. More on Monday!

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Pickled Sweet Cherries

Servings: 5 Pints


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 7-8 peppercorns per jar
  • 3 pounds cherries washed and stems trimmed


  • Combine the water, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.
  • Place bay leaves and peppercorns into your jars. Pack the cherries in jars as tightly as you can manage, but without squashing them.
  • Pour brine over the cherries, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Instead of using a chopstick to remove any air bubbles, gently tap the jars on a towel-lined countertop so that the bubbles rise to the surface.
  • Wipe rims, apply lids and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
  • When jars are cool, check seals. Eat cherries with cheese and feel joyful.

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62 thoughts on "Pickled Sweet Cherries"

  • i made pickled sour cherries a few weeks ago. cider vin., brown sugar, scotch bonnet peppers, cinnamon and shiso. i was shooting for a spicy cinnamon candy type flavor.

  • Really enjoyed this post (and l tell now that I am going to appropriate “condiment scope”). I find the culinary history of food writers fascinating. And I’m going to keep my eyes peeled. I’d love to try those cherries.

  • Ooh la la, these look amazing. I enjoyed reading your reflections on childhood condiments, too!

  • Good idea! I’ve been hesitant to jump into pickling fruit for the same reasons: I didn’t want to waste them by having it come out, well, disgusting. But your positive review has me sold – both on pickling a few jars of cherries, and on broadening my condiment scope.
    My cherries are frozen right now though – I had umpteen pounds and a lot went into my deep freezer (my usual method for cherries). Do you think it’d work with the cherries thawed a bit?

  • alack, the cherries are gone from my area! They were VERY brief this year – apparently they are one of the pickiest fruits to grow, my orchard grower told me.
    These look fabulous and I’m glad you explained what to eat them with. Would you consider these as pickles, appetizer, dessert? I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten pickled fruit and I’m definitely interested.

  • I really like the square bottom canning jar you used for these. What brand is it? Very nice looking for gifts.

    Do you think this recipe would work with blackberries? I am wondering if it only works with firmer fruit. My blackberry canes are giving us gallons of berries daily and I am looking for new things to do with them. I have blackberry rhubarb jam, blackberry vodka and blackberry cello aging, but want other things.

  • Tried Marisa’s pickled cherries today–I ate one and felt like I’d taken a bite of cherry pie. absolutely wonderful, Rise:) Still thinking about it hours later:)

  • Hey! Was inspired by this recipe and went on my first canning adventure today. Just finished putting up 6 half pints of mango chutney, 2 half pints of pickled cherries and 3 half pints of lemon blueberry jam. You’re right…there’s nothing quite as satisfying as the sound of all my jars sealing! I tried the mango chutney for my father because my grandmother used to make it. I used the recipe from “The complete book of small batch preserving” and he found it too sweet. My grandmother didn’t actually can it she made small batches she gave away and kept in the fridge. Can I used her recipe and process it so it can be kept longer? Thanks for your inspiration!

  • I did the same thing with blueberries. Same brine but with a cinnamon stick. Delicious. I got up at 4:30am today to make these cherries. Can’t wait to try them.

  • These look lovely! I really want to pickle some fruit and have “pickled blueberries” on my list but haven’t gotten to it yet. YUM!!

  • I didn’t pickle any fruit this weekend, but I did make a batch of peach BBQ sauce (to die for!), and a batch of vanilla peach jam, most of which is earmarked for christmas gifts. I love peaches so much!!

  • I’ve never thought that pickled fruit sounded good but I just made these tonight and Oh. My. Yum! I’m quite certain that the ones that just came out of the water bath will be a hundred times better even than the leftovers that I let chill out in the brine for a bit. Can’t wait!

  • I’m so glad I read about your blog in the LA Times. I’ve always wanted to give canning a try and look forward to reading more about it here. Great to meet you, you have a beautiful blog.

  • I’ve had pickled fruit on the brain lately. I’m doing some grapes today, and want to do up some watermelon rind. I’ll add this to the list.

  • I sadly missed our tart cherry season, which was fleeting and early due to the weather this year, but I can still get sweet cherries! I’m making this, even though they won’t be local – a very nice looking recipe indeed!

  • Do you think you could make these with cherries that are frozen then thawed? I just pitted and froze about 20 lbs of cherries for smoothies and fruit leather, but would love to try this recipe. Thanks.

  • Oops, it looks like I’ve gotten a little behind in the answering of questions!

    I don’t think this recipe would work quite the same with pre-frozen, pitted cherries, only because they’re not going to hold their shape in the same way. However, the flavor should still be good.

    I don’t think this recipe would work with blackberries, as they would turn into mush in the jar. It might work with small plums, though.

    For those of you who asked about the jar, it’s a vintage one that I picked up at a rummage sale a while back.

    So far, I’ve eaten these cherries with a bit of cheese, alongside a turkey burger and straight out of the jar from the fridge. All delicious applications.

    1. You can pickle blackberries. There is a recipe in the Ball book which I tried once. My nephew was the taste tester and he said they were good but not to make them again. But the pickle brine was great in salad dressings.

  • Made these tonight–my first foray into food preservation. And they are fabulous! I couldn’t wait to open a jar and taste them; I can only imagine what they’ll be like after a few weeks. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • I realized I have a slew of frozen local cherries in my freezer and, well, some of that room is needed for veg! Do you think that the pickled cherries will work if I start with frozen cherries? Thaw or not to thaw? Would the water content get thrown off?

  • Oh, just read about the frozen cherries above. Gack, maybe I’ll try a small batch of small jars just to experiment. I have fresh plums I picked yesterday though, it’ll be interesting to see how those go with the recipe idea

  • Made these about a week and a half ago and just cracked into my first jar. Amazing!!! Thanks for a great recipe. Hitting the farmer’s market again to make another batch this weekend. I don’t want to share them, but keep them all to myself. 😀

  • I made a small batch (2 pints) last month – one of my first canning projects. I tasted them last night. They are out of this world. I had with fried green tomatoes. (I eat some pretty strange meals when DH is out of town.)

    I’m going to make a full batch this afternoon after visiting my farmers’ market.

  • I made these 2 days ago – they taste wonderful. I processed for the time in the receipe. I was reading up on canning – I’m a newby – and found that I needed to have process longer because of the altitude – I live at 7000 ft. Are they safe as is? If not, would putting fridge keep them safe – I actually already put the jars in the fridge. Can the jars be reprocessed?

    I really enjoy your blog!!! Thanks

  • I made these and they are tasty, but softer than I would like. I processed twenty minutes, and I guess at my elevation it should have been fifteen. This post inspired me to try these cherries and pickled blueberries, and both are delicious.

  • I made these as holiday gifts. I was immediately impressed by how beautiful the jars looked. Now that I have tasted them, giving them away will be a test of my Christmas spirit. Many thanks for another great recipe!

  • Just made your “PICKLED SWEET CHERRIES”.They sure look pretty!Question,this is my first at canning.I still have some real tiny bubbles on the fruit.Is this a problem?
    All was going well,Got the fruit filled bottles in the boiling water,only to realize I didn’t get the bubbles out.Out comes the jars, Caps and lids come off.Bubbles are out.Reseal and back in the water bath.Houston,we have a lift off.
    New Mexico State University has a lot of info on canning and Green Chili Peppers.I,ll be canning those in a few months.Picked your recipe cause it look easy for a first time.Worked out good.Canning, something new to do at 72.

    1. Ken, don’t worry about the bubbles. As long as the jars sealed, the bubbles aren’t really an issue.

  • I just finished making these! I think I must have crammed more cherries in the jars or something because it made 10 half pints of Rainier cherries and 2 pints of bing cherries. How long do they need to sit before you eat them?

  • I made these and they leaked. I’ve never had a problem canning but have never tried whole fruits before. Can you please tell me what I did wrong? I have one of those tool things so I’m pretty sure I left 1/2 inch headspace and I don’t think I packed them too tightly. I would appreciate your help. Thanks!

  • My son loves pickles and we have been doing a lot of jam so far this summer. I started talking about the next recipe and he wanted to do cherries I mentioned that I had seen a pickled cherry recipe and he got excited I could not find my book with the recipe. But I found yours on line and it is easy enough that he can do most of it himself. I do have one question do you think they would work the same if the cherries are pitted.

    1. The cherries don’t hold their shape as well if you pickle them pitted. However, if you don’t care about that, feel free to pit them. Know that the yielded number of jars will be lower if you pit them before canning, because you’ll be able to fit more cherries into the jar.

    1. I don’t know the exact pH of this product. However, I can tell you that sweet cherries have a pH that makes them safe for boiling water bath canning, and then they’re suspended in an vinegar-based pickling liquid. Quite safe.

    1. Eat them with cheese. Add them to braised beef or chicken. Put a couple in a cocktail. Pit them, puree them, simmer the puree to thicken and use as a tangy fruit butter. Blend a few into a vinaigrette. Pit them, halve them and add them to chicken salad. Give as a gift to a pickle-loving friend.

  • Made these 2 nights ago. I thought they would be a little sweeter. Still, good condiment. Thanks for the recipe!

      1. How long will they last canned and does pitting them make any difference to the taste or texture? Just made batch and can’t wait to try them.


        1. They keep well for about 2 years. Pitting does make a different in texture. It results in softer cherries.

  • What if you also pit the cherries first? Will it affect the way they turn out? Does cutting them in half affect the way they turn out? I would like to have them this way when canned so we could rough chop them for a fast chicken or pork chop topping.


  • Have you ever tried this with tart (“pie”) cherries? A friend’s dad has a pie cherry tree loaded with fruit. Thanks!

  • Made a small batch of these and just opened up the first jar. These are wonderful. A little sweet, not too vinegary and a real fruitiness. added some to a chicken salad, but the y are even delightful eaten plain out of the jar.

  • I noticed that this version of the recipe is slightly different than what’s in your first book. Gonna follow this version right now but wondering why the change? Any particular difference in results?

    1. I use the blog as a testing ground. The recipes in the books tend to be slightly more evolved versions.

  • I have your book, Food In Jars, and made this recipe this week. Sadly, I was disappointed with the saltiness of the result. In the print edition of the book, the recipe calls for 2tbsp of pickling salt, which I see is omitted here. Will have to try again without the salt.

  • Is it ok to can these with the pits in? Looks delicious –
    I’ve got sweet and pie cherries


    1. Yes, it’s totally fine to can these with pits in. Just make sure people know what they’re getting if you share them with others!