Skip to content

Believe it or not, there’s much more to France than Paris.

Or so they say. I obviously don’t get out much, but last year when I went to Camp Cassoulet, also in attendance was Jennifer of Chez LouLou. Although all who were invited I knew previously, she was the only one I didn’t. Brave girl!

LouLou lives in the Southwest of France, which I think it just beyond the 13th arrondissement. (I haven’t tried to take the métro there, but that’s where I think it is…isn’t it?)

She’d written up an intriguing recipe on her blog for Sour Cherries with Bay Leaf and bookmarked the page, assuming I wouldn’t see sour cherries in Paris: they’re about as hard to find here as they are in the states.


So when I saw fresh griottes, I almost lunged at the stand, and walked away with 2 kilos (about 4½ pounds).

The downside of coming home a big sack of sour cherries is that if you even look at them funny, they start to discolor, so you need to use them really quickly.

Actually, there were two bins of them at the stand. And one bin of sour cherries was twice the price of the other. When I asked what the difference was, the woman pointed at the more expensive ones; “These are plus belle“. I’ve learned that the French often see things that I miss (like why my mobile phone plan at 20€ for a measly 60 minutes of talk time is a good deal), I took my chances and since they both looked exactly same to me—one wasn’t prettier than the other—I bought the less-expensive ones.


I find the best way to pit sour cherries is with my fingers. Aside from being a good way to ensure that you’ve extracted the pit, it’s also very effective for finding any tiny cuts you might have in your fingers as well. I spiced-up the recipe a bit, adding some allspice.

sour cherry jam

Obviously I’m not so concerned about my friends. But I am concerned about you. And because my Recipes page reverted back to its 2001 status when I upgraded my system last week, causing me premature hair loss (from pulling what’s left of it out), I thought I’d be nice and point you to some of my favorite cherry recipes, which you can make with sweet or sour cherries.

I’m made Sour Cherry Jam with the rest of my cherries, just in case you’re worried about me and the rest of the cherries.

Pickled Sour Cherries

Adapted from a recipe at Chez Loulou
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup (180ml) water
  • 4 ounces (115g) sugar
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 pound (225g) sour cherries, rinsed, stems clipped in half
  • Bring vinegar, water and sugar to a boil, until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and add the peppercorns and bay leaves.
  • Prick each cherry with a pin and drop them into the hot liquid.
  • Pour the contents into a clean jar (I pour boiling water into it, or run it through the dishwasher, then let it dry first), cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.


It’s best to let the cherries sit at least one week before serving. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for at least one year.

Other Cherry Recipes on the Site



    • Barbra

    Sour cherries are the best! And you’re right: Those little suckers get slimy in no time. When you pit them by hand do you just press the pit through the flesh or do you split open the skin and then pop out the pit? I’ll have to try your method next time, because the pitter really crushes the fruit. But wait, how did the pickled cherries turn out? Did you like them?

    • loulou

    Last time I checked, the Métro doesn’t travel this far south.

    Thanks for the mention. Over the weekend I gave three jars of the Pickled Sour Cherries to different friends, one of whom has the tree that half of the cherries came from.
    They smell heavenly but I haven’t tasted them with meat yet. Hope it pairs well with magret de canard because that’s what I’m making this weekend.
    Merci David!

    • Tiffany

    Maybe this is a dumb question, but what kind of cherries are the fire engine red ones? I had never had them in the States before and recently experienced them in France. Where I live they have mostly Bing cherries.

    • L

    Hm my brother bought me a cherry pitter last year because he likes to buy the most useless junk ever. (note: from what I know, he has never cooked a single meal since moving out to NYC 4 years ago). So when I saw cherries at my local supermarket I couldn’t resist buying them. And then I looked for my brand new unused cherry pitter and it was nowhere to be found. So I pitted them by hand after all. Oh…well. For all I know, that was probably easier anyways.

    • Emily

    You are very ambitious, I would have left the pits in and spat them out upon consumption! Otherwise, you can use a chopstick and poke it though the cherry. The pit should pop right out.

    • Jesse Gardner

    This looks delicious!

    • David

    Emily: For sour cherries, which are soft, I find my fingers work best. But for plump, sweet cherries, a pitter is a good investment. They usually run less than $10, but you can often find them at tag sales if you’re a good sleuth.

    L: There are various kinds of cherries sold in France. Try doing a Google image search of ‘cherry varieties’ and several sites should come up which can help you identify them.

    • Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

    Hmmm….they sound great. But I doubt I will be able to find any in my area. I am afraid that my farmer’s market isn’t very great. They just stick with the basics. Some of the recipes you linked to sound incredible.

    • David

    Kimi: A lot of farmers don’t raise sour cherries (or sell them) because they’re so fragile and there isn’t a lot of demand. In SF, I used to pre-order them from a farmer who wouldn’t bring them to the market because they would sit there and turn brown if he did.

    If there is a cherry farmer at your market, ask them if they ever have sour cherries. They may be keeping them all for themselves, and might be willing to share!

    • Linda

    Oh boy, all these delicious cherry recipes all in one place. Wow!

    Back to Basics makes a cherry stoner that looks stupid and costs too much, but it works great.

    Thanks for retrieving and collecting these recipes for us.

    • Jessica

    Where did you pre-order the sour cherries from in SF? I’d love to find a good source.

    If I remember correctly, it was from Gold Bud farms. I thing they have a stand at the Ferry Plaza market. Bill, over at Monterey Market in Berkeley, tends to get them when they’re available, too. -DL

    • krysalia (france)

    i love the picture with the tiny nearly translucent cherries on the white plate. They look like nice kid little jewelry :)

    • Sandra

    Didn’t you use a straightened out paper clip a few years back on the Today show, doing a bit with Katie Couric? I seem to remember watching you wielding the clip–not a pitter, nor fingers either. I guess whatever it takes. I like the idea of chop sticks if the cherries are softer, although, I do have to admit I have the pitter.
    Cherries are in season, but they travel from long distances to New England and they aren’t sour. But your recipes are exploding in a binder I have and will have to just make room for a few more with cherries, etc–or another binder.

    • Lisa

    I agree. It’s easier to pit sour cherries by hand. Thanks for the recipes. Tart cherry season is almost upon us in SW Michigan. I can hardly wait.

    • Hope-Ann

    Boy, am I glad I found this site tonight. I just picked about a half gallon of sour cherries before I went to bed this morning. (I’m a night shift owl.) Just sitting in my nice cold fridge for 4 hours made several of my nice fat ripe cherries turn brown and slimey by the time I got up to deal with them this evening. I froze the suckers after de-pitting with fingers. I think they are headed for jam tomorrow.

    • Trina

    I use a hairpin to pit my cherries. I think it is easier than using my fingers.

    • Chuck

    David, I found your wonderful site in pursuit of what to do with my 2 trees full of ripe sour cherries here in the Excelsior District of SF.(I never realized they were griottes until I saw the photos on your site!) Coincidentally, I just returned home last night after 3 weeks in France to find the trees ready for picking. (The heat of the last week seems to have made them more juicy than usual). I hauled in about 5 lbs of fruit and made the no-recipe jam which is gelling up nicely right now. Many thanks.

    • Devlyn

    Oh goodness, thank you so very much for the No-recipe jam recipe… I came across some sour cherries at the Farmers’ Market today, and even though they were ridiculously expensive compared to the rest of the cherries (Bing and Ranier were $3/lb, whereas the griottes were $8.75/quart), I purchased a basket and just made the most lovely jam. I’ll be spreading it on some homemade bagels this weekend, I’m sure. ^_^
    I’ll have to get some more and try the pickling as well.

    • richard

    originally from montreal, and now living in Paris, I’m always on the lookout for sour cherries. Back home couldnt find them anywhere but finally found an orchard in the hills south of montreal where I picked them myself. So far been trying but cant find them anywhere here either; any suggestions on where I might look (tried at the raspail market but no luck)


    • David

    Hi Richard: I got mine at the Richard Lenoir market, but it was about a month ago and the season may be over. Picard sells bags of them, pitted and frozen, which are good (and so easy!) although I don’t think they’re right for pickling as they may throw off too much juice when they thaw.


Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!


Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...