1 quart water
2 bags cherry herb tea or 1 pint red wine
2 pounds cherries, washed, stemmed and pitted
1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 ounce raspberry vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Boil water in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat (if you are using wine rather than tea, only use 1 pint of water). Add the tea bags or wine, all but 1 cup of the cherries, sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice and pepper, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove tea bags.
Combine the cornstarch, vinegar and lemon juice, then add the mixture to the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil and cook over medium heat until it thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard cinnamon stick.
Using a blender or food processor, purée the soup until smooth. Pour through a very fine strainer. Serve chilled, garnished with halved cherries and (optional) a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream. Makes 1 quart.
Note: This soup can be made up to five days ahead and kept in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen.