It’s cherry-pickin’ season, and as usual, I bought about double what I really needed — or any one human being could eat before they go bad without developing seemingly permanent pink teeth. The good news is, I can always make maraschino cherries.
Spoiler alert: I did, and now I’m telling you how to do it too.
Maraschino cherries take their name from maraschino liqueur, which is made from cherries. And if you want to just soak your cherries (pitted, of course) in that, there’s not a European who’d blame you. Just soak fresh cherries covered in maraschino liqueur if they’re intended for those secret late-night three-ice cream sundaes with chocolate sauce and whipped cream all kids know their parents secretly eat at night after cruelly forcing them to go to bed early.
But if you want to share your maraschino cherries with people of all ages, we’ve got the American-style recipe for you.
American maraschinos feature cherries soaked in cherry-flavored simple syrup with spices and a secret (and unexpected) ingredient: a dash of almond extract. Don’t expect your maraschino cherries to have that weird neon color characteristic of what you get in the store. That color is due to artificial colors (another good reason to DIY). Homemade maraschinos actually get darker in color. And depending on how long you let them soak, they may also be firmer than you’re used to. In short, they’re so much better than the fake things you get on aisle 2.
Homemade maraschino cherries recipe
If you don’t have a juicer, press pitted cherries through a garlic press over a fine mesh sieve with a bowl underneath to collect the juice.
Yields 1 pint
Prep time: 20 minutes | Inactive time: 3 days-plus | Cook time: 5 – 10 minutes | Total time: 3 days, 25 – 30 minutes (or more)
- 3/4 cup filtered or bottled water
- 1/4 cup fresh cherry juice (8 – 10 cherries, juiced)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups fresh cherries, washed and pitted, stems on if desired
- 1 small piece cinnamon stick
- 4 allspice berries
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, cherry juice and honey, stirring frequently until the honey is completely dissolved and the mixture is almost boiling (the liquid is steaming but has not quite come to a boil), about 5 – 10 minutes. Remove it from the heat, and allow it to cool. When the simple syrup has cooled completely, stir in the lemon juice, vanilla extract and almond extract.
- Add the piece of cinnamon stick and allspice berries to a sterilized 1-pint Mason jar.
- Fill the Mason jar with the pitted cherries (stems on or off), leaving just under an inch of space at the top of the jar. Pack them in as best as you can without squishing the cherries or pulling off stems. Pour in the flavored simple syrup, just covering the cherries (there should be at least 1/2 inch of headspace at the top; it’s OK if you don’t use all the syrup). If there’s not enough simple syrup to cover it, add a little more water. Poke a skewer or chopstick down into the jar around the edges to help air bubbles escape.
- Wipe anything from around the rim of the jar (it will cause the lid to stick as the sugar dries), and put the lid on the jar.
- If you plan to keep the cherries for more than 6 weeks, you should now process the cherries in a water bath for 25 – 30 minutes.
- Store the cherries in the refrigerator for at least 3 days prior to tasting.