Northwest cherries have a sweet, candy-like flavor and are packed with health benefits. From reducing diabetes to ensuring a good night’s sleep, research shows that cherries are a superfruit offering incredible health benefits which include:

Better sleep with every sweet bite. Keeping your energy up throughout the day can be challenging, but sweet Northwest cherries can help you sleep better and feel more rested. Studies show that cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which helps control your body’s internal clock and regulate your sleep patterns. Try eating cherries about an hour before bedtime to help get a better night’s sleep.

Fiber-rich jewels. It’s no secret that Americans do not eat enough fiber. In fact, many of us are fiber deficient, falling short of the 25-35 grams per day recommended by the USDA Dietary Guidelines. Eating sweet cherries can help you reach your fiber goal of two cups of fruit per day and may contribute to healthy weight maintenance, diabetes prevention, and improved cardiovascular health.

Cherry season is fleeting. Fresh, sweet Northwest cherries are usually available June through August so get them while you still can. Enjoy them now and preserve the rest for the holidays and beyond. The following waterbath canning recipe is easy and it will be turned into something fun and wonderful around the holidays, so stay tuned!

Pickled Sweet Cherries

Pickled sweet cherries are so easy to prepare. When cherry season is in full swing it is time to take advantage of the bounty and CAN. These little jars are wonderful with a cheese platter, in a cocktail or on ice cream for a different flavor profile. You can also add pickled cherries to a pork chop dinner for a tangy pop of summer flavor. I like to can in small 4 oz. jars, as I think of the user-end. How much will I need when eating? A quart or pint is large – maybe too much to eat within one week of opening. A 4 oz. jar is the ideal size for me.

You will need clean 4 oz. or pint jars and closures, a boiling-water canner, rack, jar lifter, canning funnel, and wooden skewer.

TIP: This recipe calls for “canning and pickling salt.” I highly recommend you seek out this salt as, unlike regular salt, it is free of anti-caking agents, which can cause the pickling liquid to turn cloudy, and iodine, which can darken the cherries. You can find pickling salt at some grocers or order online at Amazon. Whenever I see it, I always pick up a box and it keeps forever in my pantry.

Preservation method: Waterbath canning

Difficulty level: Easy

Pickled Sweet Cherries

Makes about 7 half-pint jars or 12-14 4 oz jars

2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp. canning and pickling salt

2 tbsp. pickling spice (I like Penzeys brand)

2 1/2 lb sweet Northwest cherries, washed and pitted

Place rack in the bottom of a boiling water canner, then place empty jars on the rack. Add water to the jars and the canner until the jars are about two-thirds full. Cover the canner and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Place lids in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Do not boil. Keep lids hot until ready to use.

Stir together vinegar, sugar, and pickling salt in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add pickling spice, take pan off of heat and set aside.

Pack cherries tightly into jar, leaving 1/2″ headspace.

Ladle hot pickling liquid over cherries, leaving 1/2″ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with wooden skewer.

Apply lids and bands and adjust until fingertip tight. Place jars in boiling water canner.

When all jars are in the canner, adjust the water level in the canner so that it covers the jars by at least one inch. Cover the canner with a lid and bring water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling hard and continuously, begin counting the processing time of 10 minutes (4 oz jars or pint jars).

Once 10 minutes is complete, turn off heat and let jars sit in canner an additional five minutes (this standing time allows the pressure inside the jars to stabilize and reduces the likelihood of liquid loss that could otherwise occur when the jars are removed.)

Remove jars and place on a kitchen towel-lined space. The towel will help reduce the chance of jar breakage. Do not dry the lids or jars at this point. You do not want to disturb the lids while the seals are being formed. Allow jars to cool for 24 hours before removing bands and wiping down jars. Date jars and store in a cool dry place for up to one year.

Recipe adapted from The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving, 2016. I am a paid ambassador with NW Cherry Growers. #NWCherriesPartner #Ad @nwcherrygrowers