Fermented Cherries

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Lacto-fermented cherries offer enhanced natural sweetness while creating a bright, tangy flavor that’s perfect for snacking or adding to your favorite dishes.

Cherries are a beloved summer fruit in the Crave house. We live in the frosty north of Alberta and cannot grow sweet cherries here, so each year when they’re in season, make sure to get our fill! We eat them till our fingers are stained, we freeze cherries, we can cherries, and we dehydrate cherries.

But did you know that cherries can also be fermented?

During the fermentation process, good bacteria break down the natural sugars in the cherries and enhance their natural sweetness while also developing flavors unique to fermentation, such as bright, tangy, and slightly sour notes.

Fermented cherries can be enjoyed as a snack on their own or used as a topping for desserts such as ice cream, yogurt, or cheesecake. They can also be added to savory dishes, like salads, BBQ sauces, or marinades, to add a burst of flavor.

Making fermented cherries is a simple process that requires only two ingredients and some basic equipment. So, whether you’re a seasoned fermentation expert or just getting started in the world of fermented foods, this easy recipe is sure to make your favorites list!

This fermented cherries recipe is dedicated to bright and tangy.

Fermented cherries in a jar.

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What Is Lacto Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is a centuries-old process of preserving fruits and vegetables in brine (water and salt) using lactobacillus bacteria to create lactic acid. Lactic acid gives fermented foods their characteristic sour taste and acts as a preservative, extending the shelf life of your produce. The bacteria also produce other compounds that contribute to the flavor, nutrient content, and digestibility of these foods.

Lacto-fermentation is a natural process that does not require the addition of heat, chemicals, or other artificial ingredients. The lactobacillus or beneficial bacteria are found naturally on the surface of plants, so when cherries are placed in the right environment, the bacteria begin to grow and multiply. As they do so, they release lactic acid into the mixture, which lowers the pH and creates an environment inhospitable to other harmful microbes.

Lactic acid also has several health benefits; it is thought to help improve digestion, boost the immune system, and reduce inflammation. Fermented foods are also a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and aid in digestion.

More Fermentation Recipes To Try!

No Brine?

This ferment is a lot like sauerkraut, where we rely on the salt to break down the cell walls, release water held within, and create its own brine.

Submerging the soft fruit like cherries into a saltwater brine not only contributes to a loss of shape and structure in the final product, but they can also dissolve in the brine over a longer ferment. This is especially important to note if you’re wanting to be able to separate your cherries from the salty brine at serving time.

While half sour pickles, fermented jalapenos, and other crunchy vegetables are able to withstand the brine and keep their shape, cherries are best salted and self-brined.

This process involves tossing prepared cherries with salt, which draws out moisture from the fruit and creates a brine without added water. This brine is then able to foster the growth of lactic acid bacteria, creating that tangy, complex flavor characteristic of lacto-fermented foods.

Heart shaped cherries.

Removing The Air

Lactic acid bacteria do their best work in an anaerobic environment – in the absence of oxygen. This is why most lacto- ferments, like my fermented hot sauce, and fermented garlic, among others, make use of weights, springs, or airlocks to hold the veggies under the brine or create an oxygen-free environment.

But… as previously mentioned, cherries are a soft fruit and tend to lose their shape when under the pressure of a fermentation weight, so a great alternative is to vacuum seal them in a bag.

The results aren’t perfect using the vacuum seal method, either, but if you want fermented cherries that appear somewhat cherry shaped at the end of the fermentation, a vacuum-sealed bag may be the best option. However, if you’re going to ferment your cherries then blend them and use the puree in salad dressings, and sauces, feel free to toss them into a large mason jar and weigh them down.


Tips


  • Hooked on ferments? I have a WHOLE pile of great fermenting recipes, like fermented mango habanero hot saucefermented salsadill pickle hot saucekombuchasourdough starter… AND MORE!
  • In most fermentation recipes, it’s important to ensure that all the foods are below the brine at all times, but for these self-brining recipes, it’s impossible until the cherries have released their juice. Keep a close eye on the cherries that are NOT in brine over the first couple of days and if possible, use a vacuum-style fermentation.
  • Fermentation is a really accessible food preservation method, anyone can do it, with nearly any supplies. I have a section below detailing supplies required and easy substitutions that you’ll likely have around home!
  • When I talk about burping your ferment, what I mean is to open the lid and allow the carbon dioxide to escape, reducing pressure inside the jar. This is a crucial step when using a non-venting lid. Using dedicated fermentation lids eliminates the need for venting. During the process, the live cultures in the ferment consume the sugars in the cherries and excrete carbon dioxide which creates pressure on the jar. If left too long, the jar or vacuum-sealed bag can burst due to pressure.
Cherries with a glass fermentation weight.

Key Ingredients

Cherries: Always choose fresh, ripe, vibrant fruits when fermenting. Any cherries with mold or rotten spots should be discarded. If possible, chose organic fruits to avoid cherries that have been coated in wax or pesticides.

Wash if necessary, but avoid giving too thorough of a wash to preserve the lactic bacteria on the fruit – a quick rinse is often enough.

Salt:  Salt is critical to the fermentation process, its presence helps to prevent undesirable bacteria from affecting your cherries. Choose mineral sea salt for the best flavor profile or coarse kosher salt for the most neutral salt flavor. Avoid using table salt as it is iodized and can affect the preserving process.

Labeled ingredient photo.

How To Make Fermented Cherries

Prepare Supplies + Ingredients:

  1. Wash your fermentation vessel in hot soapy water and rinse well. It does not have to be sanitized or sterilized but should be washed well with hot soapy water. Set aside to dry. 
  2. Rinse fresh cherries under cold water – avoid hot water or soap which can damage the lactic acid bacteria necessary for proper fermentation.
  3. Remove the pit from each cherry. I like to use a cherry pitter, but if you don’t have one, an empty beer bottle and chopstick work great – remove the stem, place the cherry on the neck of the bottle, and punch down through the stem and the pit will fall into the bottle.

Mix The Ingredients:

  1. Place a fresh bowl on your scale and zero it out. Add the cherries to the bowl and record the weight.
  2. Determine 2% of the weight of the pitted cherries. The easiest way to do that is to multiply the weight by 0.02, for example, my cherries in this batch weighed 453g X 0.02 = 9.06g of salt required.
  3. Zero out the scale again, and add the calculated quantity of salt. Alternatively, you could weigh out the required amount of salt in a different bowl and transfer it to the cherries.
  4. Toss the cherries and salt well. Then let sit for 15 minutes.

Prepare The Ferment:

  1. After the 15-minute rest, use a spatula and transfer all of the cherries, any rogue salt, and any liquids from the bowl into the fermentation vessel.
  2. Add a heavy weight on top, I use a pickle pebble for this recipe, but a ziplock bag filled with water placed on top would work too. Don’t be afraid to compress the cherries a little bit by hand to help them release a little more juice.
  3. Place a fermentation lid on top of the cherries, and remove as much oxygen as possible with the included pump. I use The Easy Fermenter for these no-brine recipes.
  4. Set aside to ferment.

Ferment The Cherries:

  1. Keep your ferment somewhere where you’ll see it daily to observe and open the lid to burp it if necessary but keep it away from direct sunlight.
  2. You’ll notice over the fermentation process that the cherries continue to release juice and the level will rise within a day or two to cover the cherries. You’ll see bubbles and other fermentation activity within a couple of days.
  3. Allow the cherries to ferment for 4-7 days depending on your taste, don’t be afraid to open the jar and test the cherries each day with a clean utensil to find the sweet spot.

Recipe Notes

Fermenting Time:

If you’re new to fermenting or this ferment in particular, it’s important to keep your eye on the time and don’t be afraid to test your ferment often. Your taste buds will definitely tell you when they’re done.

Under-fermented cherries will taste raw, lack complexity, and taste like a salted cherry, while over-fermented cherries will taste sharply acidic and lack the underlying sweetness and flavor of the fresh cherries that went into the ferment.

The ideal fermentation level is somewhere where the essence of the cherries is still present and balanced with the savory tang of fermentation. Trust me, you’ll know it when you get there!

Fermenting Temperature:

The ideal range for fermentation is at room temperature, between 68-75°F.

If the temperature is too low, the fermenting process will take longer and may not be as effective. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, the fermentation process will occur too quickly and may produce an unpleasant flavor.

Kahm Yeast:

If you notice a white film forming on the surface of your ferment, it’s more than likely kahm yeast – which is generally harmless but tastes terrible.

The presence of kahm yeast will probably affect the outcome of your ferment – though some people say you can scrape it off and continue, I’d advise you to scrap it and start again.

Fermented cherries in a glass jar with salt.

Batch + Storage

Batch:

Due to the nature of fermentation recipes, the batch size is dependent on you and the quantity of ingredients you want to add! For the photos within this post, I used 453g of cherries, they fit comfortably into a pint-and-a-half mason jar.

Storage:

If desired, you can keep the cherries in their juice and toss them in the fridge to slow the fermentation process and they can be stored in their brine for up to 2 weeks – although the fermentation will continue, the rate with be much slower in the cool fridge.

They can be separated, strain the pulp from the liquid and reserve it for a vinaigrette or as an addition to a homemade sauce, while the cherries themselves can be stored in the fridge for up to a week without a noticeable decline in quality. Any longer than that, and they should be frozen or even dehydrated.

Even More Fermented Goodness

As previously mentioned, fermentation is very accessible – it doesn’t require any specialized equipment.

Fermentation vessel: This can be any glass jar that has an airtight lid. A mason jar, an old pickle jar, an old kombucha bottle. Anything you have around will certainly work! It just needs to be airtight and glass. Non-glass materials can be porous and difficult to clean, and/or harbor bad microbes.

Fermentation weight: While there are specific glass fermentation weights or pickle pebbles, you can use a few different things. A ziplock-style bag half filled with brine placed on top of the ingredients works great. A crumpled piece of parchment paper placed on top of the ingredients also works.

Fermentation lids: Because this is a no-brine fermentation, I like to use my Easy Fermenter Lids. They are super convenient, thread onto a wide-mouth mason jar, and come with a small pump to suck air out of the jar. I also have airlock lids and pickle pipes as well as glass fermentation weights here in the Crave kitchen.

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Fermented cherries in a jar.

Fermented Cherries

Allyson Letal
This simple fermentation process enhances the natural sweetness of cherries while creating a bright, tangy flavor that's perfect for snacking or adding to your favorite dishes.
This recipe is adapted from "Lacto Plums" Page 69 – The Noma Guide To Fermentation.
4.50 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Fermentation Time 5 days
Total Time 5 days 20 minutes
Course Preserved
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 71 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 453 g fresh sweet cherries
  • 9.09 g sea salt

Instructions
 

Prepare Supplies + Ingredients:

  • Wash your fermentation vessel in hot soapy water and rinse well. It does not have to be sanitized or sterilized but should be washed well with hot soapy water. Set aside to dry. 
  • Rinse fresh cherries under cold water – avoid hot water or soap which can damage the lactic acid bacteria necessary for proper fermentation.
  • Remove the pit from each cherry.

Mix The Ingredients:

  • Place a fresh bowl on your scale and zero it out. Add the cherries to the bowl and record the weight.
  • Determine 2% of the weight of the pitted cherries. The easiest way to do that is to multiply the weight by 0.02, for example, my cherries in this batch weighed 453g X 0.02 = 9.06g of salt required.
  • Zero out the scale again, and add the calculated quantity of salt. Alternatively, you could weigh out the required amount of salt in a different bowl and transfer it to the cherries.
  • Toss the cherries and salt well. Then let sit for 15 minutes.

Prepare The Ferment:

  • After the 15-minute rest, use a spatula and transfer all of the cherries, any rogue salt, and any liquids from the bowl into the fermentation vessel.
  • Add a heavy weight on top, I use a pickle pebble for this recipe, but a ziplock bag filled with water placed on top would work too.
  • Place a fermentation lid on top of the cherries, and remove as much oxygen as possible with the included pump. I use The Easy Fermenter for these no-brine recipes.
  • Set aside to ferment.

Ferment The Cherries:

  • Keep your ferment somewhere where you'll see it daily to observe and open the lid to burp it if necessary but keep it away from direct sunlight.
  • You'll notice over the fermentation process that the cherries continue to release juice and the level will rise within a day or two to cover the cherries. You'll see bubbles and other fermentation activity within a couple of days.
  • Allow the cherries to ferment for 4-7 days depending on your taste, don't be afraid to open the jar and test the cherries each day with a clean utensil to find the sweet spot.

Notes

Fermenting Time:

If you're new to fermenting or this ferment in particular, it's important to keep your eye on the time and don't be afraid to test your ferment often. Your taste buds will definitely tell you when they're done.
Under-fermented cherries will taste raw, lack complexity, and taste like a salted cherry, while over-fermented cherries will taste sharply acidic and lack the underlying sweetness and flavor of the fresh cherries that went into the ferment.
The ideal fermentation level is somewhere where the essence of the cherries is still present and balanced with the savory tang of fermentation. Trust me, you'll know it when you get there!

Fermenting Temperature:

The ideal range for fermentation is at room temperature, between 68-75°F.
If the temperature is too low, the fermenting process will take longer and may not be as effective. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, the fermentation process will occur too quickly and may produce an unpleasant flavor.

Kahm Yeast:

If you notice a white film forming on the surface of your ferment, it's more than likely kahm yeast – which is generally harmless but tastes terrible.
The presence of kahm yeast will probably affect the outcome of your ferment – though some people say you can scrape it off and continue, I'd advise you to scrap it and start again.

Batch:

Due to the nature of fermentation recipes, the batch size is dependent on you and the quantity of ingredients you want to add! For the photos within this post, I used 453g of cherries, they fit comfortably into a pint-and-a-half mason jar.

Storage:

If desired, you can keep the cherries in their juice and toss them in the fridge to slow the fermentation process and they can be stored in their brine for up to 2 weeks – although the fermentation will continue, the rate with be much slower in the cool fridge.
They can be separated, strain the pulp from the liquid and reserve for a vinaigrette or as an addition to a homemade sauce, while the cherries themselves can be stored in the fridge for up to a week without a noticeable decline in quality. Any longer than that, and they should be frozen or even dehydrated.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 71kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 1gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.04gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 881mgPotassium: 252mgFiber: 2gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 72IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 15mgIron: 0.4mg
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