Last year I started a new tradition for my oldest son Matthew; affectionately known as “the cherry monster”. During peak season when cherries go on sale for as little as $1/lb, we began to make a year’s worth of homemade Maraschino Cherries. Making twenty pounds of Maraschino Cherries (and juice) only costs $15. Of course, Royal Anne cherries are what gives them their classic neon red, but I use Bing cherries because they are a quarter the price.
Unfortunately, I missed the peak cherry season this year, and had to make this year’s batch with $3 cherries. I couldn’t justify buying 10-pounds of raw cherries at that price, so I settled for just 3 pounds. This will yield about 5 pounds of cherries and juice (4 to 5 pints). It’s going to be a lean year for the cherry monster.
Our favorite things to make with the cherry juice are: Shirley Temples (using Cherry juice in lieu of Grenadine), Malibu Bay Breeze, and added to Sangria in lieu of 1/4 cup of sugar.
Recipe for homemade Maraschino Cherries
Ten Pounds Raw Cherries:
10 pounds cherries
4 quarts water (Friday PM)
1/2 cup kosher or pickling salt, not table salt!
14 cups sugar
4 cups cold water (Saturday AM)
juice of 2 regular lemon,
1 ounce red food coloring
2 teaspoon almond extract
Yields: 14 to 15 pint jars
Three Pounds Raw Cherries:
3 pounds cherries
1-1/2 quarts water (Friday PM)
3 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt, not table salt!
5 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups cold water (Saturday AM)
juice of 1 small lemon
3/4 tablespoon red food coloring
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
Yields: 4 to 5 pint jars
Note: The cooking times below are for 3 to 5 pounds of cherries.
FRIDAY PM – The Pickling Process. (Takes 1 to 2 hour.)
- Wash, stem and remove seeds using a cherry pitter, immediately placing into cold water. Wear an apron or old clothes. (8 to 9 minutes per lb).
- Bring pickling salt (never table salt) and the 2 quarts of water to a boil; about 10 minutes. Stir until salt is dissolved.
- Let cool for 15 minutes,
- Drain cherries into large bowl, then pour pickling solution over your pitted cherries.
- Put a plate to weight down the cherries to prevent them from floating above water line.
- Cover with plastic wrap; Allow to cool for an hour then refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.
SATURDAY AM – Marinating the Cherries. (Takes about 45 minutes)
- The next day, drain the cherries and throw away the brine.
- Rinse cherries thoroughly by means of repeated cold water baths. Set cherries aside for the time being.
- In a large pot, combine the sugar and the few cups of cold water.
- Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (10 to 12 minutes)
- Add the cherries to the pot; bring back to a boil (10 minutes), stirring occasionally, continue boiling cherries for 2 additional minutes.
- Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl. Add lemon juice and (optional) red food coloring.
- Cover with plastic wrap; Allow to cool for an hour then refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring from time to time.
SUNDAY AM – Preserving Process. (Takes about 1-1/2 hours.)
- Run 6 pints worth of jars and lid bands through dishwasher (about 60 minutes), and after about 30 minutes bring a large pot of water to boil (for preparing loaded jars).
- Heat lid inserts separately in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.
- Drain the juices into an empty pot; setting cherries aside.
- Cook the juices uncovered until just reaches a boil (about 10 minutes). Careful: juices will bubble over quickly.
- Turn off heat, add cherries immediately. Add almond extract and gently stir for 2 minutes (to remove air).
- Pour the boiling hot fruit and juice directly into the prepared pint jars. Use a small spoon to coax the fruit into jars, only filling 1/2 to 2/3rds with fruit.
- Stir with non-metallic spoon or gently shake to remove air bubble. Fill to 1/8″ of brim with more juice. Wipe the brim clean.
- Seal the jars by place heated lid insert onto jar, holding down in the center while tightening lid ring.
- In large pot of boiling water, carefully load the sealed jars. Use a jar lifter, or combination of tongs and spoon.
- Add water if needed to a level of 1 inch above jars and cover pot.
- When water boils vigorously (about 10 minutes), lower heat to maintain a gentle boil and process for recommended time: 20 minutes for pint jars, and 25 minutes for quart jar (adjust for altitude).
SUNDAY AFTERNOON – Wrap up. (5 minutes)
- When cooled check for seal integrity by pressing top; should not move up or down.
- Store for up to 1 year. Write date and contents on lid to avoid any confusion.
Rating: 5 stars.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Large.
Start time Friday Evening. Ready at: Sunday Morning