make your own: maraschino cherries.

July 21, 2016

make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

It’s sour cherry season here in New York. Blink and you’ll miss it, so here’s a project to make it last a little longer.

First, a few facts:

Maraschino is a dry liqueur made from Marasca sour cherries.

Maraschino cherries were traditionally made from stewing fresh fruit in water and sugar and preserving them in a bath of the cherry-flavored liqueur that gives the cherries their name.

The modern-day Maraschino cherry  that you find bobbing up and down in Shirley Temples and falling down the sides of sundaes has little to do with the original. They’re typically made from cherries that have been bleached and then re-infused with red dye and corn syrup and other unsavories. These imposters were born during the Prohibition when boozy cherries were banished and they’ve remained the most commonly known cocktail and sundae cherry ever since. 

But! If you like to frequent fancy Brooklyn ice cream parlors—and I do—you will often find Luxardo maraschino cherries on the menu. In contrast to the sickly sweet bright red cherries of my favorite childhood mocktail, these cherries are made using Luxardo maraschino liqueur and the cherries that result are a deep red and very delicious.

You can find Luxardo cherries pre-made in speciality shops, but at more than $20 a jar, they’re a definite luxury. And so? Make your own!make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

To be clear: making your own Luxardo cherries is still something of an exercise in indulgence. Sour cherries at our local farmers’ market run about $5/pound and a large bottle of Luxardo maraschino liqueur cost me about $30. But even at this rate, you could make yourself a jar of cherries every summer for the next five summers and still come out way ahead. (You could also clean out your local sour cherry farmer and make a large batch in one go to preserve for future summers.)
make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

The process is simple; the results delicious. My cherries came out slightly brighter in color than the Luxardo cherries I’ve enjoyed out and about, but I think that mostly has to do with the color of the sour cherries I started with. I cobbled together my recipe from recipes found on Brooklyn Brainery and A Cozy Kitchen.

Maraschino Cherries

What you need:

1 pound or so sour cherries, washed and pitted (you can also use sweet, if you prefer.)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

juice from half a lemon

1/2 fresh vanilla bean (or vanilla extract to taste)

1 cup Luxardo maraschino liqueur

make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

What to do:

1. Wash and pit your cherries. Note: If you’re my mom, that means you pull out your very handy cherry pitter and get to work. If you’re me, you whip out a chopstick. I promise it’s nearly as easy to pit a cherry this way. Just remove the stem and poke your chopstick into the place where the stem was and into the center of the cherry. If you don’t care about having two holes, you can push the pit easily out the other side. If you want limited damage done to your cherry, make your hole in the top and then just urge the pit out with a little squeeze of your fingers.make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

2. Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla into small saucepan. (I split my vanilla bean open and scraped the inside into the pot before adding the rest of the bean.) Bring to a boil. Add cherries and simmer for 5-6 minutes while the syrup thickens. make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

3. Remove cherries from the heat and add Luxardo liqueur. Allow to cool before pouring into a clean jar for storage. (If you want to give your cherries as gifts, consider processing them in a water bath as you would jam or jelly to preserve them. Otherwise, refrigerate and use within a few weeks. Or days. Or minutes.)make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

For the curious:

I found my Luxardo locally at Heights Chateau.

The pretty checkered napkin is from Everyday Napkin Co.

The delicious ice cream is from local favorite, Van Leeuwen.

make your own maraschino cherries | reading my tea leaves

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  • Reply Katherine July 21, 2016 at 9:32 am

    This looks SO fun! Definitely want to try it. 🙂 I love the terrible-for-you artificial ones, too, but I’m sure these are much better.

  • Reply Eva July 21, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Love this, though I already have a jar of luxardo cherries that will last some time. I did brandy a jar of Trader Joe’s morello cherries (drain, then add a mixture of alcohol) and they’re a lot of fun though extremely alcoholic.

  • Reply chelsea jacobs July 21, 2016 at 9:57 am

    These are so delicious, I’ve never thought about making my own!

  • Reply Mary Kate July 21, 2016 at 10:46 am

    You’re so great at introducing me to things I never knew I wanted to do! And hoooooray for cherry season 🙂

  • Reply Bri July 21, 2016 at 11:04 am

    This is exactly what I didn’t know that I needed! Hah. As always, thank youuu for your lovely ideas!

  • Reply Baltina July 21, 2016 at 11:08 am

    What a pretty pictures and a very do-able recipe, so much better than anything you could buy. I think this will be a great gift idea too. Thanks Erin!

  • Reply Baltina July 21, 2016 at 11:09 am

    What pretty pictures and a very do-able recipe, so much better than anything you could buy. I think this will be a great gift idea too. Thanks Erin!

  • Reply Dominika July 21, 2016 at 11:20 am

    My husband must have his luxardo maraschino cherries and I’ve been meaning to look up how to make them from scratch so this came at the perfect time! <3

  • Reply Lisa July 21, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I have two cherry trees and bags of pitted cherries in my freezer for pies, cakes and cookies. Our cherry season is the first couple of weeks in June. I would love to try this recipe. But how much Luxardo do you add at the end? I love your blog. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 21, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Ha. Whoops! 1 cup! Amending the recipe now!

    • Reply Anna B July 25, 2020 at 10:14 am

      OR use a Bobbi pin and bend it backwards to make a loop. It scoops out the pip perfectly. My grandmother in law lives in Cherry country in Michigan and has this contraption stuck into an old eraser. It looks like she has been using it for a good 30 years. Works like a charm.

  • Reply Cynthia July 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I have a delicious maraschino cherry in my Manhattan when the mood calls. They always come stem on and I love to fish it out of my cocktail at the halfway moment for fun. While I could see your recipe providing more infusion opportunity, couldn’t we leave the stems on to reduce the work and have a pretty similar result? And you’re right…this would make an incredibly lovely and festive gift!

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 21, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      I think you could definitely leave the stem and pit if you wanted to! You’d just have to remember they’re in there! Also not 100% sure whether leaving the pit intact would change the flavor of the cherries! Maybe worth an experiment!

      • Reply Cynthia July 21, 2016 at 3:44 pm

        Oh yeah, I forgot about the pit! The professional maraschino folk must have the knack for removing the pit and leaving the stem!

  • Reply Jennifer July 21, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I just discovered your blog and can’t stop scrolling through the pages. Your photography is beautiful. I love your book reviews,and your writing style is so readable. Thanks for such good, original material!

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 21, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      Thank you!!

  • Reply Sarah July 22, 2016 at 1:04 am

    YUMMMM! These look and sound so delicious. Also your ice cream treat is super cute. 🙂

  • Reply Krista December 28, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    These look soo good! But is it a 1/2 cup of water or 1/2 tablespoon? It just says 1/2 water. Thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 28, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      Cup! Edited (sorry about that!)

  • Reply Angie Brubeck May 27, 2017 at 1:32 am

    Is there anything I can substitute for the liqueur? I am a recovering alcoholic with 8 years sober. I would hate to give all that time up for one cherry, no matter how good they are. Lol. I have 2 sour cherry trees and a Bing cherry tree in my orchard. The bing cherry did not produce last year, but I had more sour cherries than I could shake a stick at! Thank you for god help in advance.

    • Reply Angie Brubeck May 27, 2017 at 1:34 am

      That last sentence should have read “for your help”, not “for god help”. Unless it served as an ego boost. In that case you can leave it. Lol

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 29, 2017 at 11:58 am

      You could probably make a simple syrup base instead!

    • Reply Robin April 29, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      I would suggest adding the alcohol in the mixture while it is on the stove and cook off the alcohol.

  • Reply Jaune June 18, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    So I am just wondering if you have made this recipe using pie cherries because by simmering them in the syrup most of them didn’t hold their shape. On top of that, there was WAY too much syrup for the amount of cherries. So I basically have jars of liquid that have a few smashed cherries at the top. Maybe you haven’t used three ripened pie cherries? What I ended up doing is taking a jar and putting cherries in the jar and then adding the hot syrup to it instead. Hopefully that works because I just wasted 2 pounds of cherries.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2021 at 7:07 am

      i made it using very tart sour cherries and only simmered for five minutes! maybe yours were bubbling away longer than that? sounds like you have some cherry compote on your hands! hope you had better luck with your method!


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