Homemade Maraschino Cherries

People are often surprised to hear that you can make maraschino cherries at home.  While it is a long process, it’s not a particularly involved or difficult one, and uses relatively few ingredients.

While I’m sure there’s an updated version somewhere else, this recipe comes from the University of Idaho  Cooperative Extension Office, from 1978.  It appears they got it from the Washington State Fruit Commission some time before that.

I’ve made a few adjustments.  Specifically, I’ve added that the salt used should be pickling salt.  For a quality product, all canning should be done with pickling salt, as it doesn’t have any anti-caking agents to settle in the jar.  It probably isn’t critical for this recipe, but it’s a good habit to be in.

Also worth noting is that while I haven’t tried it without, the food coloring should be optional.  The coloring does give the cherries their trademark look, and they really do look amazing, but the flavor shouldn’t be negatively impacted by leaving it out if you wish.

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 lb Cherries
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 1 oz Almond Extract
  • 9 Cups Sugar
  • 1 oz Red Food Coloring
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Canning/Pickling Salt (or non-iodized table salt)
  • Powdered Alum

Start with good cherries.  The original recipe calls for Royal Ann (also known as Queen Ann), but Lamberts, Corum, ans Stark Gold are also listed as acceptable.  Make sure your cherries are slightly under ripe.  Wash, pit, and then either stem them or trim the stems so they will pack more tightly in the jars.

Protip: For pitting, you can buy hand-pitters or mechanical ones, some fellow members of the Walla Walla Gleaners shared another couple of methods with us.  Try placing the cherry on top of a bottle, then driving a chopstick through to push the cherry out and into the bottle.  If you have one around, you can also try a number 3 cake decorating nozzle on the end of your finger, pushed into and through the cherry to take the pit out.

Soak 4.5 lb of cherries overnight (about 8 hours, at room temperature) in a brine of 2Tbs salt and 1tsp powdered alum per quart of water needed to cover fruit.  Drain and rinse thoroughly.

Add sugar, water, red coloring (probably optional), and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat, let cool, and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature, covered.

Bring to a boil, then turn off heat, let cool, and let stand for another 24 hours at room temperature, covered.

Mix in lemon juice and almond extract.  Bring to a rolling boil.

Ladle into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath canner (or steam canner) for 20 minutes.  One batch should make about 10 half-pints.

Serve with ice cream, drinks, or as a garnish to other desserts.

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