The secret to clinching this recipe, which is adapted from Kate Lebo’s Book of Difficult Fruit, is finding and pitting fresh sour cherries. More tart, fragile, and complex than their sweeter cousins, they have a particularly short season. While frozen sour cherries hold up beautifully for baked desserts like pies and crumbles, in this preparation, fresh fruit will yield far superior results. To preserve the shape of both the maraschino cherries and your sanity, get a cherry pitter before you begin. If desired, reserve the pits to perfume the boozy soaking liquid with their almondy aroma.
Use homemade maraschino cherries anywhere you would the store-bought version—in classic cocktails like a Manhattan, atop a grownup ice cream sundae, or eaten straight out of the jar. Once properly sealed, the cherries keep well for at least a year, and make excellent holiday gifts.
- 4½ lb. sour cherries, stemmed and pitted (about 11 cups), pits reserved (optional)
- One 750-mL bottle Luxardo maraschino liqueur
- Prep nine 8-ounce glass jars by washing them thoroughly, then drying on a large baking sheet set in the center of a 250°F oven. When dry, remove from the oven and set aside (they do not need to be hot for canning). Wash the lids and bands, and set them aside to dry at room temperature. Keep the oven on.
- In a stockpot over medium-high heat, combine the cherries and liqueur. Bring just to a boil, then immediately remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries into the reserved jars until there’s about ½ inch of space left in each (don’t overpack the jars—there may be some leftover cherries). Add 3–5 pits per jar, if desired, then pour liqueur into each jar just to cover the cherries, once again leaving about ½ inch of space. While the cherries are still hot, cover the jars with the lids and screw the bands fully onto the jars so they are tight, but not so tight you need strong hands to reopen. Return the jars to the baking sheet, transfer to the oven, and heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature. Check the seals as they cool. If any don’t seal, use those jars first. (The alcohol content will delay spoilage, but processing to seal will ensure that the cherries last longer.) Use immediately or store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Store opened jars in the fridge.