This recipe comes from the manuscript receipt book of Lady Ann Fanshawe at The Wellcome Library – page 292 by Lady Ann’s numbering. It is very quick and straightforward and not that different to the other pickled cherry recipes around, except for the seasonings.
Lady Ann favours mace and dill which were unusual enough to tempt me to try. The recipe also calls for the very best heart cherries, which are cherries that have a soft and rounded heart shape. A bit of research into old varieties reveals that heart cherries could be both dark or pale. I’ve gone with dark, and used a little red wine in place of the original water, in order to help preserve the colour of the fruit. If you can get pale dessert cherries, then swap the red wine for white.
The original recipe contained no sugar, which was a bit much even for a vinegar-lover like myself, so I have tweaked the recipe and added a little brown sugar to soften the flavour.
2kg dark purple cherries
540ml light fruit vinegar – I used home-made gooseberry, but you could use whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the fruit. A white balsamic, for example
180ml red wine
6tbs dark muscovado sugar
3 blades of mace
1 tbs dried dill
½ tsp salt
- Stone the cherries and arrange them neatly in concentric circles in the bottom of a preserving pan. There should be enough to make a full single layer covering the bottom of the pan.
- Add the sugar, mace, dill and salt.
- Gently pour in the vinegar and red wine. This should just cover the cherries. If you need more liquid add it in the proportion of 3 parts vinegar, 1 part wine.
- Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Cook for 10 minutes, until the cherries are just tender but still holding their shape.
- Gently spoon the cherries into sterilised jars. Pour in the cooking liquid to cover and seal.
- Can be enjoyed immediately with ham and terrines, as well as fatty meats such as roast lamb, duck and pork.