A while back I complained that Collins brand “maraschino” cherries (my favorite) had changed their recipe and now suck. Since then I’ve been hunting fruitlessly for a replacement. I love Luxardo and Amarena Fabbri cherries, but they are both dark and intense and I also really enjoy the light, bright flavor and crisp texture of American-style maraschinos.
I’ve tried a number of the “natural” brands of maraschino cherries (e.g., Tillen Farms) and though they are made with sugar, I haven’t found any with the crispness and complexity of flavor that the Collins’ had. Tillen Farms, for instance, have no recognizable citrus or almond flavor—only the taste of red sugar water, which works if you’re a hummingbird, but doesn’t do well if you’re a grown-up.
So it is that I’ve spent the past few months researching how to make maraschino cherries at home. My goal is to create something that is bright, sweet, crispy, and has a great flavor. These would show up primarily in lighter, fizzy drinks where I prefer the American Maraschino like highballs, fizzes, and some punches.
A few years ago, homemade maraschino cherries were all-the rage. But, I’ve tried those methods, and they don’t do it. You end up with mushy cherries that taste like Maraschino liqueur—that’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I’m looking for.
So this week, I researched some of the more-serious methods of making maraschino cherries and settled on trying this recipe from Seattle Can Can:
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
- 5 pounds cherries, pitted
- 10 cups water
- 1 tbls salt
- 1 tsp alum
- 10 cups white sugar
- 3 cups water
- juice of one lemon
- 2 tbls red food coloring
- 2 tbls almond extract
Bring water, alum and salt to a boil. Add cherries and soak overnight .
The next morning, drain the cherries and rinse in cold water.
Combine cherries, water, sugar, lemon juice, and red coloring. Heat to boiling point. Let stand for 24 hours.
Remove the cherries and again boil the juices. Pour over the cherries and let stand for another 24 hours. Bring to boil again.
Remove the cherries again and boil the juices. Add almond extract. Pack cherries into sterilized jars and fill the jars with juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Apply lids and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 10 minutes.
Since we don’t really have fresh sour cherries readily available here in Colorado, I tried this with plain-old Bings and made two small batches—one following the recipe above, and one substituting Luxardo Maraschino for the almond extract. I’m pretty sure they won’t be awesome as they’re already shrivelled and the texture isn’t great, but I’ll bust them out in a week-or-so and see how the flavor came out.
But I’ve found a ton of other maraschino cherry recipes—including some original 1930s recipes from E.H. Wiegand himself—and will be trying them out, looking for the perfect cherry.