Most maraschino cherries are bright red, sickly sweet, and drowning in red dye and corn syrup. Not something you want to put in your cocktails. Luxardo cherries are another story, but they are pretty expensive as far as garnishes go. Since cherries are in season right now, I thought I’d pick some up and make enough maraschino cherries to last until this time next year (or to give out as host gifts with a bottle of rye around the holidays…)
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
- 3/4 cup raw sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 stick cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1.5 lbs pitted cherries
- 1 cup amaretto, Luxardo, brandy, or dark rum. See note below in #3.
- 4 clean 16oz jars and lids
- Pit the cherries.
You can pit cherries with a straw, cherry pitter, icing tip, or a funnel. I opted for using a funnel and pitting them from the side, as I wanted to keep the stem. You can remove the stem if you want, but I think they look a lot better in a cocktail with the stem. This takes about 20 minutes, so put on an episode of 99% Invisible and get pitting. You could leave them whole, but they wouldn’t soak up as much alcohol and syrup.
- Cook down 1/2 lb of the cherries with the raw sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg over medium heat until the cherries are mushy. Let cool slightly and strain the juice/syrup into a separate container. Discard the cherry mush and cinnamon stick.
- Mix this syrup with the cup of liqueur you chose to use. I used amaretto and I’m pleased with the flavor it gave the final product. Traditionally, maraschino cherries are made with Luxardo maraschino liqueur, but amaretto, brandy, and dark rum are good substitutes.
- Fill the four 16oz jars with pitted cherries, then pour the hot syrup/alcohol mixture over the cherries up to the fill line.
- Wipe off the rims of the jars, screw on the lids, and process them in a water bath for 10 minutes for long-term storage, or keep them in the refrigerator if you plan on using them within a month.
I recommend letting these cherries sit in the jar for at least a week before you crack it open and start using them. Enjoy!
UPDATE – June 9, 2016
These cherries age very well. They firm up, darken, and retain their flavor. Here they are a year later: