A perfect way to capture a season is to pickle what is at the peak of ripeness. Usually, we think of pickling cucumber, making a pickle. Pickled red onions are a great garnish on a taco or Mexican dish. They add acid, a pop of flavor and texture in the form of crunch. Pickled fennel is also a wonderful seasonal treat that can be used in a salad, on a pickled plate, or in a sandwich. Even mustard seeds can be pickled, creating a caviar-like texture to a dish. Yet we don’t initially think about pickling fruit. When I first tasted Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales La Roja barrel-aged beer, I was amazed at the complexity, the depth of dried fruit flavors, and all the cherry undertones in the Belgian Styled Red Ale or Flanders Red Ale. This sour ale was speaking to me, to cook with, and with the season, cherries came to mind. This is how and why I used this culinary technique for making Jolly Pumpkin La Roja Pickled Cherries.
By using a sour beer and some red wine vinegar (bringing more fruit undernotes without overpowering the beers crafted character), cherries can be preserved and enhanced at the same time in this lower pH liquid, to be served at a later day or aged longer for a special dinner. The beer’s sourness and complexity from the different malts, add a dried fruit undertone, increasing the flavor umbrella of the ripe cherries essence. This is another example of why cooking with beer enhances the recipe you are making.
What type of cherries to used to make these Jolly Pumpkin La Roja Pickled Cherries? As cherries are a stone fruit, there are many different varieties, that ripen at different times of the summer season, in different locations across the globe. I do love sour cherries, as they have that tartness, firm flesh, with a deep red hue. Chelan, English Morello, Montmorency, and the mighty Schaerbeek are all wonderful chooses if you can find them. Schaerbeek sour cherries are used to make one of my favorite Kriek’s, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek. The flavor is truly inspiring, as a brewer and a chef! The flavor of this cherry has just the right amount of fruit, bold, aggressive, sweetness with a wonderful well rounded essence. There is also a touch of almond, that comes from the cherries stone or pit. This is why cherry and almond pair so well together.
You may want to spend the upfront time of pitting the cherries first so that when it comes time to eat them, they are stone-free! But it is up to you, how or if you prepare the cherries before pickling them.
Try these cherries alongside a cheeseboard, adding an acid with a sweetness to help cut the fatty fermented dairy, charcuterie platter, serve with a grilled piece of veal | pork | duck | chicken |, a decadent torchon of foie gras, or even as the star of your Manhattan cocktail. These pickled cherries are delicious poured over ice cream, adding a few to my Rodenbach Grand Cru Cherry Pie with Almond Coriander Crust for an additional pop of sour, or added to a trifle. The beer’s nuances along with spices blend with the cherries’ sweet and sour flavor, creating harmony on the palate. Remember to save the pickling liqueur, as the Belgian beer style Flemish Red Ale, vinegar, and seasonings all infuse with the cherries, creating a delicious melange of flavors, that can be used as a salad dressing, added to a pan sauce for seared duck breasts or incorporated into your own Beer Cuisine creation!
These pickled cherries also make a wonderful gift, for a friend, family member, or fellow beer lover!
Makes: 2 Pints of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja Pickled Cherries