Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Homemade Maraschino Cherries recipe, cherries in a white bowl

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  • Total: 36 hrs 25 mins
  • Prep: 36 hrs
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Standing Time: 23 hrs

Although we have encountered maraschino cherries most of our lives—from the "cherry on top" of the sundae to the garnish in a Manhattan cocktail—we may not have thought much about them, like how they get to be that artificial red color. The fact is, commercial maraschino cherries are loaded with chemicals; the light-colored cherries are first bleached and brined and then soaked in a bright red dye. Even though most of us don't eat maraschino cherries by the handful and often have just one at a time, knowing how much processing is done to produce them makes these cherries quite unappealing.

Luckily, we can make our own at home with this recipe. As with any canning project, it will take some time, mostly inactive, standing time, but the effort is well worth it.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds pitted sweet cherries
  • For the Brine:
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon pickling salt
  • For the Syrup:
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 lemon
  • Optional: red food coloring
  • Optional: 1-ounce almond extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Homemade Maraschino Cherries ingredients, cherries, sugar, lemon, water, red food coloring, almond extract, salt

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. To make the brine, bring water and pickling salt to a boil, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pour over pitted sweet cherries. Cover and let sit 12 hours or overnight.

    pitted cherries in pickling brine in a white bowl, covered in plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. Drain cherries, discarding brine, and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

    washing the pickling brine off of pitted cherries

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, lemon juice, and red food coloring, if using. Bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, and remove from heat.

    sugar, water, lemon juice and red food coloring in a sauce pan

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. Pour liquid over cherries, cover, and let stand for 24 hours.

    cherries in sugar water mixture, in a glass bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  6. Drain cherries, reserving juice. Set cherries aside. Bring reserved juice to a boil again. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract.

    cooking cherrie juice in a small sauce pan

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Pour warm juice back over cherries.

    pouring cherrie juice over cherries in a large glass bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  8. Pack cherries with juice in a clean jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

    Homemade Maraschino Cherries in a glass jar

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Canning Variation

  • If you wish to can the cherries, pack them into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4- to 1-inch headspace between the top of the cherries and rim of the jars. Place in a water bath canner and process 20 minutes for pint jars or 25 minutes for quart jars.

Tips

  • Make sure to select sweet cherries (as opposed to sour) for this recipe. Look for fruit that is heart-shaped with a firm flesh and dark red to almost black in color. Bing, Lambert, Royal Ann, and Tartarian varieties work best.
  • If you can't find pitted cherries, pit them yourself. (Make sure to wear an apron.) To do so, place one cherry on a cutting board and press it down hard with the side of a large chef's knife—the pit should pop out. To keep a round shape, push a straw or the large end of a chopstick through the cherry from the stem-side until the pit pops out. A cherry pitter simplifies this process.