I don't care how gauche or tacky they are, I LOVE maraschino cherries. I love them so much that I even eat the stems, in fact, crunching through the woody stems may be my favorite part.
My love affair with maraschinos dates back to our first meeting -- I was seven years old and my family had gone out for dinner to one of our favorite restaurants, The Little Bear, a then-newish Chinese restaurant perched on the side of a stream in Woodstock, NY. My parents let me order my first Shirley Temple. I've always had a much larger than average sweet tooth so the pink-tinted beverage was like heaven in a glass... And the crowning glory was the big maraschino cherry perched daintily atop the ice, practically glowing an unnatural and alluring shade of red. I made short work of it, stem and all.
Although I still love them, I have since become much more aware of all the yucky ingredients in most maraschino cherries - red dye number 5 million, high fructose corn syrup, etc. And I have always wanted to try making maraschinos myself so when I saw this simple recipe on the blog In Jennie's Kitchen, I knew the time had come.
I ran out the next day and purchased a big load of cherries at Sunfrost and a cherry pitter from the new kitchen shop in town, Diane's Kitchen.
The process of making my own maraschinos was surprisingly quick and easy. The pitting did not take long though I was a bit surprised by how violent it seemed. No doubt this impression was enhanced by cherry juice's strong resemblance to blood... Our sink and the surrounding areas looked like the set of Apocalypse Now by the time I was done. And my apron will never be the same...
But it took mere minutes to juice the lemons while I heated the cherry juice, water and sugar until the sugar had dissolved completely.
Then I tossed in the cherries, lemon juice and pure almond extract and cooked them briefly - no need to cook for very long if you plan to can them since the cherries will get cooked for 10 minutes during the hot water process.
Meanwhile, I sterilized my jars in my canning pot and got things ready for the brief canning that followed. 15 minutes later, two jars of maraschinos were cooling on the counter. Let's hear it for the Good Shop Lollipop!
A note that this is all a fry cry from real maraschino cherries which were originally made from a type of sour cherry grown in Croatia called a Marasca cherry. The Croats crushed their Marascas to make a sweet liqueur which I am guessing derived its almond-like flavor from the cherry pits. And the cherries that were then preserved in that liqueur were called Maraschino cherries. But since I am not interested in liquor-soaked cherries, the bastardization does not bother me one bit.
Homemade Maraschino Cherries adapted from Nick Mautone's Raising the Bar
Makes one quart
* 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
* 1/2 cup (125 ml) black cherry or concord grape juice
* 1/2 cup (4 ounces) natural cane sugar
* Freshly juice (3 tablespoons/1 1/2 ounces/50 ml) of 1 lemon
* 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
* 2 cups (9 1/2 ounces/266 grams) sweet bing cherries, pitted
1. Add the water, cherry or grape juice and sugar to a 2-quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and let cook 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the lemon juice, extract and cherries. Cook 5 minutes to let the cherries absorb the flavors, then remove the pot from the heat.
2. Transfer to a clean sterilized jar and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for long-term storage, or just put the jar in the fridge if you plan on using them within one month.
Here are some good-lookin' cherry recipes from other folks:
- Cherry Pit Liqueur from Julia at What Julia Ate
- Chocolate Black Cherry Sundae Topping from Canning Homemade
- Cherry Pie Filling from Megan at Stetted
- Sour Cherry Jam from Marisa at Food In Jars
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