Cherry vinegar & Thai pickled cherries

As I entered supermarket last Saturday, I was greeted by a stack of dark red cherries just begging to come home with me. I had just seen pickled cherries (something I’ve never tried before) used on the five and spice blog (which rocks), and was really intrigued by the idea. Growing up, we sometimes had cherries preserved in brandy or jam – something I was never tempted to make myself (we don’t eat a lot of sweets) – but cherries in vinegar, with maybe a little bit of hot spice? That sounded like the perfect way to enjoy the fruit throughout the year, perhaps with some cheeses or curry.

Bonnie Lee (she’s the brains of the operation) suggested that we add a little Thai twist to the pickle. Brilliant. So, that’s the way we decided to go. The results are in the picture below.

We ended up with about ½ cup of extra cherry vinegar, which is bright red, has a nice cherry finish, is slightly sweet, and will be great in dressings and marinades. We haven’t tasted the pickles yet, as we’re waiting for all those great flavours to blend. I’m traveling for work again – but they should be ready to crack open when I get back to the US in mid-August. I’ll let you know how they came out then.

Cherry vinegar & Thai pickled cherries

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts fresh cherries
  • 1 lime
  • 2 sticks dried lemon grass
  • 4 pieces dried Thai ginger (galangal)
  • 10 dried bird’s eye chilis
  • 2 cups distilled vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar

You will also need a mason jar that holds 4 cups.

Directions

  • Wash and pit the cherries, discarding any that are not firm.
  • Demonstrate that you’re smarter than me by not wiping your cherry-juice-covered hands on your shirt.
  • Sterilize the mason jar.
  • Zest the lime, and place the zest in the mason jar.
  • Toss the lemon grass, ginger, and bird’s eye chilis in the mason jar.
  • Pour the distilled and rice vinegars in a deep skillet, and squeeze in the juice of your lime. Add in the sugar, and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • When the vinegar solution is warm, add in the cherries and poach them in vinegar for about 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Remove the cherries from the vinegar with a slotted spoon, and put them in the mason jar.
  • Strain the bright red vinegar through a wire mesh.
  • Pour enough strained vinegar into the mason jar to cover the cherries.
  • Put the remaining vinegar in a clean bottle.
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Fuzz is for peaches

One 20 hour flight later, I’m back in LA (for a little while anyway) – and one of the first things we did when I returned was head to the farmers’ market in Torrance. I figured a little sunshine and fresh food would help me forget my jet lag.

I was wrong.

We didn’t do much shopping in the end, though we did pick up some stunning Seascape and Chandler strawberries – two varieties that are bursting with flavor, especially when they’re perfectly ripe (as these were), and bright red all the way to the center.

Seascape & Chandler strawberries

Our Seascape & Chandler strawberries, begging to be devoured

It seems that whenever we get strawberries at the local supermarket, we find one or two in the middle that are covered with fuzz – and the rest of the batch isn’t far behind. That’s why I’ve gotten in the habit of soaking berries in a vinegar and water solution for a couple of minutes before putting them in the fridge (I use about 3 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of water). That kills the beasties that lead to fuzz (and waste), and the berries generally keep for a couple of weeks after that. (It helps that supermarket berries are inevitably underripe.)

None of the berries from the farmers’ market had any fuzz, but I soaked them in a vinegar solution anyway – just to be safe. I needn’t have bothered, as they only escaped being eaten for a couple of days. The few that weren’t eaten immediately, ended up in strawberry rhubarb crisp.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cut strawberries
  • ½ cup cut rhubarb
  • 1 Tbsp +1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp rolled oats

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375℉, and grease a baking dish with butter or cooking spray (you can do the planet a favor and make your own cooking spray with oil and a spray bottle). You want the fruit to be about an inch to and inch and a half deep – for this quantity, a round dish with a 5¾ inch diameter did the trick.

Toss the cut strawberries and rhubarb with 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar, then place it in your greased baking dish.

Melt the butter and stir in the flour, rolled oats and remaining sugar – then crumble the mixture on top of the fruit.

Bake at 375℉ for 45 minutes, then enjoy while it’s still hot.