Homemade Maraschino Cherries the Good n Slow Way

Dark Sweet Cherries in a White Bowl Bake This CakeLet’s make homemade maraschino cherries! We’ll mess with a small batch of dark sweet cherries to prove-up that homemade maraschino cherries are WAY better than those bottled things! I know, I know, lotsa folks love commercially prepared maraschino cherries (2 of my sisters in particular are bottled maraschino cherry lovers). And there are some amazing Italian delicacies and liqueur-soaked beauties. But we’re starting with baby steps here and comparing fresh homemade cherries to the average run o’the mill variety that are just yuck.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries in a jar Bake This CakeI have been wondering (since I’m about to show you a fabulous vintage Maraschino Cake recipe), what these little darlins would taste like if they were made up from scratch. And — I think we’re on to something here!

Slow Food Warning! Even though it is simple, this is a 3-day process, so you have-2-have fun with it! Take a few minutes after work each night with your buds by your side and run this little kitchen science experiment for yourself and see if I’m not right about these little heavenlies in a way that you would never guess compared to the bottled store-bought cherries.

…So let the moonlight shine on your lovely sweet fruit! :)

Moonlight at the river photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Commercial maraschino cherries start with a much lighter colored cherry and they are turned pure white during the first stage brine. Our cherries won’t turn white during the brine. In fact, they may turn a little grey but then when they soak they come back around. You COULD add some good quality red food coloring to the final step, but why? Technically speaking, if you don’t add dye to the cherry they might not qualify as a “real” maraschino cherry (haha!), but let’s live dangerously and throw dyes and chemicals to the wind, eh? Here’s a comparison photo between store bought and homemade cherries:

Comparing commercial and homemade maraschino cherries Bake This Cake

I admit the commercial cherries look bright and cute…but you won’t want to spit out the homemade cherries. In fact, if you like eating fresh cherries, these little puppies are going to knock your socks off!

The first step in the process is the salt brine. We’re using Kosher salt because it contains no iodine (and I hear that’s important) and it has no additives to prevent lumping. You can use pickling salt if you have it or (I think) any salt that contains no iodine…but Kosher salt is easily found so go for that.

You’ll need a big jar or a few smaller jars and I suggest a cherry pitter (big time).

I also suggest you triple this recipe…cause our biggest problem (actually our only problem) was sampling too many of these delicious cherries through the process — and I can almost guarantee you they’ll go fast!

Jar of homemade maraschino cherries and cherry syrup Bake This Cake

Day One Homemade Cherries Ingredient List:
1 pound dark sweet cherries, pitted
1 quart of water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Day One…

Pit a pound of dark sweet cherries, boil up some salt water for just a minute (1 quart of water to one teaspoon of non-iodine salt), cool the water down (just let it sit) so the cherries don’t cook, add the pitted cherries and immediately lock and load them in the salt water overnight.

Some folks leave the brine on the counter for a day, though we decided to chill them (for no good reason) but let us know in the Comments if you have a better reason to leave them on the counter for the brine soak. Click on the photo below to open it large in a separate window:

Homemade Maraschino Cherries Step 1 Collage Bake This Cake

Day Two Homemade Cherries Ingredient List:
2/3 cup of water
2-1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

Now to Step 2 on Day Two

The next day, make a simple stove-top syrup with 2/3 cup of water and 2-1/3 cup sugar. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and boil for 30 seconds until the water stirs clear.

Drain and wash the brined cherries, throw away the salt water and store the cherries in the simple syrup chilled for 24 hours or at least overnight.

Click on the photo below to open it large in a separate window:

Step  2 Maraschino Cherries Syrup and Soak Collage Bake This Cake

Day Three Homemade Cherries Ingredient List:
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, fine quality
(optional: fine quality food grade red food coloring, but we didn’t use this)

Final Step is easy on Day Three

Remove the cherries from the fridge, drain and hold the syrup. To the syrup add 1/2 teaspoon of fine quality almond extract (emphasis on fine quality). You can add a whole teaspoon if you like a more almond-y flavor to your cherries. We wanted just a hint of it so we went light on the almond flavoring.

If you want your cherries to be a brighter red, you may add a fine quality red food coloring at this stage. Because the cherries started dark, they won’t get bright red like a commercial cherry but they will get a little “redder” but not uniform in color (since they started at various colors of natural red). So some will be a little lighter and darker than others.

Click on the photo below to open it large in a separate window:

3rd Final Step Making Marschino Cherries Collage Bake This cake

Bottle the cherries in cute little jars with the flavored syrup and chill at least overnight. You will end up with an extra bottle of cherry syrup that you can use for our homemade Maraschino Cake and for our Cherry Frosting.  You can also make  Cherry Champagne Cocktails or Cherry Lemonade and homemade Maraschino Cherry Ice Cream by just adding some of your way cool and bright homemade cherry juice. whoo hoo! We’re on a cherry roll!

Batch of Homemade Maraschino Cherries and Syrup Bake This Cake

Not canned for preservation: This is not a recipe for preserving long-term cherries so keep them refrigerated and use them within a couple of weeks (if you can hold onto them that long) — although the cherry juice will last bottled in the fridge for a good long time.

Now you’ve got some awesome homemade maraschino cherries on your hands. What do they taste like compared to the regular bottled version? Yeah, I thought so. :)

Big tip! This is a small kitchen project that will produce 2 jelly-sized jars of cherries and a jelly-sized jar of syrup (maybe a little more if there is less taste testing). SO you may want to up your game by increasing the quantities. If you triple the recipe using 3 pounds of cherries, you will have enough for snacking, baking an awesome vintage fresh cherry cake with fresh cherry frosting, cocktails or cherry lemonade AND homemade cherry ice cream. So don’t disappoint yourself with too few of the final batch. haha! OR just start out slow like I did — before I went back and made more. haha!

White Bowl of Dark Sweet Pitted Cherries Bake This Cake

Check out our Homemade Vintage Maraschino Cake and Cherry Frosting using a terrific turn of the century recipe and using, you guessed it, our own homemade maraschino cherries! I feel like a proud mama when I serve this. :)

homemade vintage Maraschino Cherry Cake Slice by the river Bake This Cake

Here’s a shot of our homemade cherry ice cream (okay, yum!)…

Cherry Ice Cream in a Champagne Glass Bake This Cake

…and we’re serving up some cherry drinkies (with a champagne or lemonade base)…

Cherry Champagne Cocktail BakeThisCake

Thank you for joining us for this little kitchen cherry craft adventure!

I hope you’re following our test cakes on Facebook. It’s fun to chat with you there in the evening and on week-ends. Please also join us on Instagram and Pinterest.

Let me know what you think about this project — and don’t forget to tip me with your own experience in prepping homemade cherries. (Oh, and I love to see your photos!). :D

Leslie

Leslie Macchiarella photo by Julie Macchiarella

River Scene photo by Leslie Macchiarella Bake This Cake

Merced River in the Summer

Michelangelo at the river house photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Michelangelo at the river house

Dove on a wire in the country photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Dove chatting on a country fence

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44 thoughts on “Homemade Maraschino Cherries the Good n Slow Way

  1. Hi Leslie, excited to try this recipe. For those who want to avoid sugar, xylitol is an awesome substitute. It’s not artificial, comes from birch trees, and tastes and resembles sugar. It’s a sugar alcohol, but has no sugar grams so it’s diabetic friendly.You can find it in most any healthfood store.

  2. Going to try this. Love Maraschino Cherries, but I love making stuff with real produce I pick up at the local farmers market. I’m getting into canning and would love to figure out how to make large batches and store them for long periods. I also think they would make a grand Christmas gift. But seeing as I try to purchase only seasonally and locally I would need to make and store them for months.

    • Hi Beth Anne, I’m not sure how frozen cherries would hold up to the soak for maraschino cherries. It might work if they are fancy grade, thawed & well drained. If you test it, please share your experiment. If it goes wrong, perhaps you could purée for cherry cake. :)

  3. I just made these with a honey simple syrup instead of sugar, and they are great!!! I can’t have sugar (SCD diet for Crohns), and I’m so excited to have found this. Thank you! I’m going to try to make a grain-free pineapple upside-down cake, and now I have pretty cherries to put in the center of the pineapple circles. :)

  4. Hi, I wanted to thank you for this. I love maraschino cherries, but recently learned how they’re made and was horrified. They’re bleached white and then soaked in high fructose corn syrup! As we just picked up 20lbs of fresh local sweet cherries, this article was most a most welcome find! I did have a question, however. Why don’t you add the almond extract on day 2 and just give it the third day to soak before separating out the extra jar of syrup? Just curious, it seemed kind of silly to go to the trouble of draining them, adding the almond extract, then putting the syrup back(half of it anyway).

    Regardless, the two pounds I started with went so well, I’m definitely going back for a few more pounds. The extra syrup is great when added to some sparkling water…really great. Your cake recipe is next on my list! Thanks again!
    -AJM
    Ithaca, NY

  5. I may have just ruined 3 lbs. of otherwise innocent cherries. OFS kicked in and I brined in three TABLEspoons of kosher salt but only left them in the fridge overnight after discovering what I’d done. I also didn’t have enough regular sugar so I dumped in some powdered sugar for the syrup. Now everything is back in the fridge and we will see what the outcome will be tomorrow.

      • Well, I tasted them this morning and I’m sure that they aren’t what you intended for me to do. They taste ok but nothing spectacular. Can’t say that I recommend using all that salt in the brine even though the salty taste I expected wasn’t there
        . The powdered sugar made the syrup too sweet but I think I’ll still use it for that cake or whatever, just less of it. All in all, they are still superior to the store bought things.

  6. I attempted to make these, I tripled the batch and left them in the salt brine overnight on the counter. They ended up staying in the brine for about a day and a half because I didn’t have enough sugar for step two. When I moved on to step two the cherries had turned brown and smelled bad, like they had fermented. I continued because I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to happen. Anyway, I had to throw away three pounds of cherries. If you are going to make these I would put them in the fridge for the brining like Leslie did! I’ll be attempting take two another day.

  7. I must be unique in that I LOVE the taste of most bottled maraschino cherries! However, I’ve discovered that if I eat too many they give me a migraine headache. I’m sure it’s due to the chemicals they’re made with. So now I only eat no more than maybe 3 at one time. But I’m so anxious to try this recipe! Thanks!

    • Hi Laurene. My wife is also severely allergic to tree nuts. McCormick makes an Imitation Almond Extract that we use in our baking. So, there are almond extracts that don’t contain tree nuts. Just make sure to read the ingredients on the packaging, and contact the company if in question..

  8. Pingback: Episode 35: Get maraschino-ed | Alphabet Soup Podcast

    • Hi Cheryl, thanks for stopping by. I’m not sure about using artificial or substitute sweeteners but if you try it please write in and let us know how the cherries turn out. If I can find some time, I’ll try some experiments. Best, Leslie

    • Why would you go to all this trouble of making something so freshly homemade and then use an artificial sweetener like spenda that is harmful? If it’s a diabetic situation,there are other forms of non-artificial sugars out there.

    • Cheryl,

      The sugar acts as a preservative, pulling the free water out of the cherry, reducing the opportunity for bacteria growth. I wouldn’t recommend substituting and artificial sweetener, but you could try honey, which also has a preservative effect.

  9. Pingback: How do they make Maraschino Cherries? | Nutrition by Nancy

  10. Pingback: Behold The Horrifying Way Maraschino Cherries Are Made | Hello Keltie

  11. You have COMPLETELY inspired me! I’ve never thought about making maraschino cherries before – but I’m hoping I’ll be doing it in the next week and since I JUST bought an ice cream maker for the first time in my life – I will definitely be making some cherry ice cream!! Wheeeeeeee!!

  12. Hello! So glad to find out about the brining stage. What would I need to do to can the cherries? I canned my own several times before, but they turned grey and soft, because they are heated. I use steam canner. Maybe add some lemon juice and quickly bring heat up?

    • Thank you, Liz. Let us know how the homemade cherry ice cream goes. I used a vanilla custard recipe, subbed our cherry syrup for both sugar & vanilla & added puréed Maraschino cherries at the end stage of churning. It was luscious!

    • Hi, Yan. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. You’re right about the real deal cherry. These are just a simple play on the real marasca cherry used with maraschino liqueur but since 1940 in the U.S. maraschino cherries have been defined as “cherries which have been dyed red, impregnated with sugar and packed in a sugar syrup flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor”. We’ll have to try upping the ante and trying to replicate the original in a future post. That would be fun!

  13. Made my first batch and they are incredible! Gonna stop by the store tomorrow and start another batch (my first was with 2 1/2 lbs. I’m upping it to 3 – 4 lbs.). So much better than the commercial ones!!

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