I think you’re either a cherry or a strawberry person. I’m more of a strawberry person, but for some reason, cherry-stained hands just fills me with joy as they signify the start of summer. Last year, I forgot to buy a cherry pitter before making my first cherry pie ever. I had over 2 pounds of black cherries waiting to be turned into a summer pie. Laziness won out and I used chopsticks to pit the cherries. As I kept stabbing myself all over my hands (I know, I questioned my adulthood too), I still enjoyed seeing my hands stained in red.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate summer with a passion – aside from pool time, patio time and a whole new batch of fresh fruits and vegetables, of course. But there’s still something that drowns me in nostalgia every time the summer solstice arrives.
That cherry pie ended up being my favorite out of all the pies I made that summer. The fragrant smell of the black cherries soaking inside the pie crust once we took it out of the smoker was intoxicating. This year, I know better. As soon as June started, I knew cherry season was upon us and I quickly Amazon Prime-d a shiny cherry pitter for my kitchen collection. I ran to the farmer’s market last weekend and grabbed over a pound of cherries with every intention of making a pie. Once I got home, though, I ended up reading more about maraschino cherries and how there are entire communities online dedicated solely to debate what’s the best liquor to soak them in. Crazy, right? Ah, the internet.
Originally, marasca cherries come from Croatia and they get the name “maraschino cherries” because they used to be preserved in Italian maraschino liquors. During Prohibition, they almost disappeared since there was no liquor to soak them in.
My boyfriend got me a bar cart as a gift a while back and we quickly filled it up with at least three types of whiskey and plenty of bitters. He makes a mean Manhattan that cures long work days and even the case of the Mondays. What better addition than some homemade maraschino cherries?
These guys are easy once you get through the pitting. I sat on my back porch in the Atlanta summer heat with a beer and a giant bowl of cherries. So, just chill for 30 minutes and put the work in. Patience! They end up being less bright than what you’re used to due to the lack of food coloring. They are boozy, still firm and can be added to any dessert or drink that you prefer. I like to let them soak for at least 3 days before consuming, but it’s up to you. For me, the boozier, the better.
Homemade Maraschino Cherries (inspired by this recipe)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 whole allspice
- 1 pound of sweet cherries
- 3/4 cup of Luxardo liquor
Pit all of the cherries after washing them. Combine all ingredients (except cherries and liquor) in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir and add cherries. Let soak for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the liquor. Let cool for about 20 minutes and then add to clean jars. Add the allspice to the jar and close them tightly. Stick them in the fridge and eat them before 6 weeks are up! That won’t be hard, I bet.
Yields about 2 8oz jars full of cherry goodness