Last week, on a warm and sunny Thursday afternoon, I dashed out the door with my small rollie suitcase crammed full of Coffee Crisps and ketchup chips, a cooler crammed full of road trip snacks, and a belly crammed full of anxious butterflies.
Five days later, I came home with my rollie suitcase crammed full of swag from generous sponsors, a cooler crammed full of Trader Joe's goodies, a belly crammed full of good food, and a heart crammed full of happy memories.
And in between, there were long hours on the road with Kris, who was kind enough to give me a lift there and back, sleepover parties and market trips and hand-pulled noodle soup and trips to Trader Joe's with Kelly in Philly, and the three-day extravaganza of food and inspiration and community that is the Big Summer Potluck.
The Big Summer Potluck (or #BSP4, if you've been following the fun on Twitter) is a food bloggers retreat in Bucks County, PA where a small group of like-minded folks gather for a weekend of inspiration, community and food. And yes, it's also an honest-to-goodness potluck party.
As I've learned over the past couple of years, the hardest part of BSP is picking just the right dish to bring... food bloggers are kind of a tough audience, after all, seeing as we spend most of our time eating, thinking about eating, or sleeping (during which we dream about eating).
With cherry season in full swing, these balsamic cherries felt like the perfect choice. Unique yet approachable. Impressive yet uncomplicated. Portable enough to stand up to a 10-hour drive between Toronto and Philly. And delicious. Really, really delicious.
After a spending a week or so in a simple brine of balsamic vinegar, sugar, coriander seed, pepper and orange zest, the cherries emerge with a sweet-and-sour quality that makes them surprisingly versatile.
The first jar was served as part of the Friday night dinner, alongside smoky pulled pork tacos by our gracious hostess Pam Anderson on soft corn tortillas from Hot Bread Kitchen, sweet-and-salty Filipino pork skewers by Betty-Ann, and an impressive array of salads including an enormous bowl of green salad tossed with my lovely roomie Christina's prize-winning Musselman's apple butter and basil dressing.
Then again, they could have done just as well on the dessert table that popped up later that evening, because these babies are just as good with sweet as they are with savoury. Think poundcake, panna cotta or vanilla ice cream, or anything else that you might serve with the more traditional pairing of strawberries and balsamic.
And when they're all gone (which shouldn't take very long at all), don't you dare throw out that brine! It's sweet and sour and a little bit fruity, and can basically be used very much like a shrub - stir it into soda water, shake it into cocktails, whisk it into a vinaigrette, or reduce it to make a sauce for grilled pork or duck.
Considering how amazing these cherries are, I guess it's not surprising that the one thing that I didn't bring home is leftovers. Good thing the recipe makes two jars!
Balsamic Pickled Cherries
- Total Time: 30 mins
- Yield: 8 1x
These cherries walk the fine line between sweet and sour - serve them on savoury dishes like cheese plates or grilled meats, spoon them onto sweets like vanilla ice cream or pound cake, or stir them into a Manhattan for a new-school twist on an old-fashioned cocktail.
- 1 ½ lbs firm-ripe sweet cherries
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup balsamic vinegar (6% acidity minimum)
- 2 wide strips of orange peel, 2" long each
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- Stem and pits from the cherries, then cut in half lengthwise.
- In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the water, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Bring the brine to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, divide the orange peel, coriander and peppercorns between two sterilized half-pint jars, and then fill with the prepared cherries, packing them in as tightly as possible.
- Immediately pour the hot brine into the prepared jars, covering the cherries completely and leaving ½" headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a paper towel, then top with sterilized lids and tighten to finger-tight.
- Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, and then store in a cool, dry spot for at least 1 week before eating (or up to 6 months, though it's unlikely they'd actually last that long).
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Category: Condiment
Heather Mulholland says
Looking forward to trying this tomorrow with the bowlful of too ripe for my tastes cherries. Thanks for posting this on the FB forum!
How did I miss these cherries at the dinner????
It was great to see you again! I still think you and Kris are crazy for driving 10 hours. That takes dedication ;) Loved the cherries too! I was tempted to sneak some back with me.
Aurora Importing says
This is amazing. Next time you plan to make this let me know... we'll put the balsamic vinegar in exchange for a couple of jars!!
Kim Bee says
Dude seriously, now I really wish I had gone even more than before. Next year woman, next year.
Betty Ann @Mango_Queen says
Those were your balsamic pickled cherries? Oh I enjoyed them so much. Just like I am currently nibbling on these bag of ketchup chips you lovingly gave me. I am licking my salt-laden fingers as we speak. Thanks for thinking of me. This is a great recap of BSP4. You captured it well. Lovely seeing you again, Izzie. See you at the next food event :-)
David @ Frenchie and the Yankee says
I love this recipe! Thanks for sharing.
Maybe one day, I will make it to the BSP!
What a great idea for any potluck, Isabelle, but especially for one full of bloggers! I always look at the pictures of Big Summer Potluck with a big of jealousy - I remember you talking about it last year. Maybe some day!
Wow, Izz, these sound amazing! I actually have some cherries just lolling about in the fruit drawer, in need of an assignment! And I have some gorgeous vanilla orange balsamic. Thanks for the inspiration! And I'm glad you had a great time at BSP4! =)
A Canadian Foodie says
Haven't heard of the party - but sounds like you have been going for years. We haven't anything in this area that would be that drivable - Seattle is about 15 hours away... and there aren't enough like-minded people in the area to find a travel buddy easily. LOVE the idea...and the cherries look so yummy!
Isabelle Boucher says
This is actually just my second year, but I guess it's part of the magic of Big Summer Potluck - you instantly feel like you're among friends. :) I'm thankful to be close enough to drive/fly there within a reasonable amount of time.