This is a must try if you like Cherries to garnish your cocktails. It is my rendition from a multitude of recipes I researched, homogenizing them and tweaking to it to make, in my opinion, the Best Maraschino Cherries, Period!
Just for clarification, what I am calling real Maraschino Cherries is not what I grew up knowing them to be. Those types of Cherries are readily available in supermarkets which are blanched to the point of being almost clear then dumped in a vat of sucrose or corn syrup with massive amounts of red dye. These are NOT real Maraschino Cherries, even though the jar may indicate so on the label. My Cherries are of the “Old School” type where Maraschino Liqueur and real Cane Sugar are the base ingredients with a variety of natural spices. I am not a fan of the thick syrup that is typically found in commercially available real Maraschino Cherries so I have reduced the amount of Sugar in my recipe. My syrup is much lighter and does not have the consistency of motor oil. I also reduced the amount of Maraschino Liqueur ever-so-slightly, replacing it with Bourbon (or Rye). Additionally, making your own Cherries is rewarding, better tasting and more cost effective than paying $20 for a small jar of mushy Cherries with a fancy label made commercially.
Ingredients for 1 pound of Cherries:
· 1 Pound of fresh Cherries, pitted with stems removed (I prefer using Michigan Bings)
· ¾ Cup of Cane Sugar
· ¾ cup of water
· ½ cup of Maraschino Liqueur (I use Luxardo but can be substituted with other manufacturers)
· ¼ cup of Bourbon (or Rye if desired)
· ¼ Vanilla Bean, scraped (1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract if Vanilla Bean is not available)
· ½ Tsp of Almond Extract
· 1 Cinnamon Stick (I cut mine in fourths)
· Juice from 1 Lemon (2 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice if real Lemons are not available)
· 4 individual orbs of Allspice
· In a medium sized saucepan (or larger pan if making a multi-batch) add the cane sugar and scraped vanilla bean caviar (or 1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract). Cook on medium, add the cinnamon sticks, allspice, juice from 1 lemon and water. Bring contents to a boil then turn down to a simmer for +/- 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
· Add the fresh Cherries, continue cooking at a simmer for +/- 5 minutes and are slightly softened. Remove from the heat and stir in Maraschino liqueur and Bourbon. Allow the contents to cool down slightly warmer than room temperature (100* F) while continuing to stir occasionally.
· Fill the canning jars with Cherries to the jars shoulders and back-fill with the juice to just cover the Cherries. If you are canning, follow the proper canning prep procedures. If you are not canning them you must put them directly in the refrigerator. Have the jars ready and warm or slightly hot, timing them to the point to where the Cherries are ready to be placed in them. I have found that the short 8 oz. Ball jars work best as their size does not lend to too much product in one container especially if you cannot consume the entire jar inside of 6 weeks or are giving them away as a gift. For a stronger aroma of Allspice and Cinnamon, leave the residual remains of the spices in the batch and include them in your stored jars otherwise you may want to remove them before canning or cook with the spices in a mesh bag. You will need about 3-4 jars per 1 lb. of fresh Cherries used. I have tried the recipe both ways, by canning them then storing in a pantry and placing them directly in the refrigerator. There is a big difference in texture between storing in a pantry and refrigerating them. The texture of the Cherries is a bit mushy stored in a pantry and much firmer if stored directly in a refrigerator.
Making Maraschino Cherries in winter:
Since fresh Cherries are simply nonexistent in the winter, you can substitute frozen for the fresh Cherries. You will get a bit different taste, usually a bit sweeter, due to the sugars crystallizing during the flash-freeze process but they are not as large or firm. The prep is nearly identical as with fresh Cherries with the difference being you must cook them a bit longer if not thawed prior to adding them to the sauce pan. If they are added frozen, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 7-10 minutes. On a side note, I experimented with 4 different types/brands of frozen Cherries and have found the Trader Joe’s “sweet dark” variety to be the best. I found them to be larger in size, firmer and sweeter than any of the others.
You now have your very own homemade Maraschino Cherries that will surpass anything you can buy, by both taste and quality. You can eat them straight-away but it is best to let the flavors marry for 2-3 days. If you don’t can them, they will last up to 6 weeks in the fridge. If you can them, they will last up to 6 months or more (if not opened). After the canned Cherries have been opened, the shelf life is the same as not canning them, up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator. Always keep them refrigerated if they are not canned or after they are opened.
These Cherries are great for an out-of-this world Old-Fashioned or Manhattan. I typically enjoy my Cherries in Bourbon on the rocks adding a teaspoonful of the juice and a splash or two of my favorite Bitters. Of course, you could always use them on ice cream but why? Bourbon is so much better!